A clash has broken out between Google Maps workers and the management due to the remote work policy. This came after Google’s labor vendor, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. notified employees in the Seattle-area office that they would have to return to the office by 6th June.
Upon this notification, a worker named Shelby Hunter emailed the HR department to ask if he could have a medical exemption. He had gone through four lung surgeries and was uncomfortable sitting in a ‘maskless’ office after working from home for two years. The HR responded by telling him to start looking for a new job.
Employees continue to push
Shelby Hunter and his 200-plus colleagues are not employed by Google itself but instead through its vendor, Cognizant. They are subject to Google’s broader push to bring workers back to their offices after the long break.
Prior to this, more than 120 Google Maps contract workers in the Bothell office signed a letter to the vendor company, asking the management to allow them to work from home.
”We demand to retain to option to WFH until our concerns are adequately addressed, and we have created and approved a flexible plan for all workers in our office,” the petition read.
A spokesperson for Cognizant told news outlets that their policy to return to office is based on a hybrid model and the number of days in office. In contrast, the remote work policy relies on the kind of work employees do and their client requirements.
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When questioned about Shelby Hunter’s email exchange, the spokesperson labeled it a ‘mistake,’ saying they were actively discussing the accommodation request.
On the other hand, Hunter said that he had indeed received a phone call from his site manager, who assured him that he would ‘look into it further.’
Aside from COVID-19, Cognizant workers also raised other concerns, like problems in finding affordable child care and commuting on such short notice. Many workers had to move away from Seattle because of unaffordable housing in the area.
Hunter said that high gas prices put a financial strain on people, even if they are making short trips. According to April Gartner’s poll of executive leaders, commuting was on top of the list of employees’ concerns about returning to the workforce.
The hourly rates for the Bothell office start at $16 an hour and are less than Google’s average salaries of above $120,000 but comparable to Seattle’s minimum wage of $17.27 an hour.
Mary Twiggs, a member of the team that addresses user-reported problems with Google Maps, stated that if by 6th June nothing changes, a lot of people will have to quit.