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Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield: Employee in Mason exposed to COVID-19

The company responds to workers' concerns
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Posted at 10:33 AM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 23:47:28-04

Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions here.

MASON, Ohio -- An employee at the Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield office campus in Mason has been exposed to COVID-19, according to a written company statement provided by Anthem spokesman Jeff Blunt.

"The safety and well-being of our associates is of the utmost importance to Anthem," Blunt wrote.

Anthem's statement confirmed the employee worked on the third floor of Building 2, and that she left work early on Monday after the employee told management she had possibly been exposed to the coronavirus.

The company recommended that the worker self-quarantine at her home, according to Anthem's statement. It's unclear if the employee has been tested for the virus.

Later on Monday, co-workers on the same floor also left work early, according to an email alert Anthem sent to employees the same day.

After the third-floor employees went home, Anthem brought in a work crew to "deep clean" the work area using a disinfection process that followed recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, according to Anthem.

Despite that, two Anthem employees shared their concerns in emails to the WCPO 9 I-Team.

"It's causing a lot of panic," one of those employees said.

The I-Team agreed to disguise the identity of the employee we interviewed Tuesday because she believes her job would be at risk if the company knew she had shared non-public company information with us.

"The biggest reason I'm doing this is because there are several women on the floor that are pregnant. We have an employee on the floor as well who is on oxygen," the employee said.

But so far, this employee said she has not been allowed to work from home, where she believes she has a much lower risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

"I'm panicked. I'm afraid that I might have impacted my family and that I should be home and be quarantined," she said.

Anthem insisted it is "encouraging all associates with work-at-home capability to do so and we are implementing a phased strategy to transition additional associates to a work-at-home environment."

Cincinnati attorney Randy Freking
Cincinnati attorney Randy Freking

"There are no legal protections at this time for the fear of the coronavirus," said Randy Freking, a Cincinnati employment attorney.

"You don't have a right to work from home. That's up to your employer."

Freking told the I-Team if employees develop a diagnosed anxiety disorder over fear of exposure to the virus they may qualify for 12 weeks of family leave, but he says many companies are acting responsibly and trying to provide a safe work environment.

"My advice to employees is to work with your employer and try to come to a common sense solution," Freking said.

Freking said his law office has received a "surge" in questions from workers about issues related to potential COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.

He expects a much bigger increase in worker complaints and possible lawsuits later this year after companies lay off and terminate employees due to the financial impact of COVID-19.

Anthem insists it's doing what it can to protect workers.

In addition to allowing many employees to work from home when possible, the company said it's practicing social distance at work by keeping employees' work stations at least six feet apart.

Still, the fear remains for the employee who shared her concerns with us.

"We should be working from home and we should be protecting ourselves."