Drugmaker Ebvi pressures reluctant employees to return to work, raising safety questions


An important part of the success of pharmaceutical company AbbVie is the “face-to-face” conversations CEO Richard Gonzalez told in an email on August 27 that outlined its process for getting thousands of US-based employees back to work is.

Gonzalez said that “cross-functional co-operation” was the cornerstone of ABV’s high performance, stating that employees “need to preserve and nurture our culture so that we can grow faster, climb higher and be the next generation.” To help patients. ”

According to an email seen by CNBC, he said, “He said,” means to return to our workplace. The company has expected employees – even those who say they are capable of doing fine from home – to report to the office to promote creativity and innovation as part of its phased return-to-work plan For, according to interviews with three current employees, anonymous complaints in public forums and internal company documents.

But not all employees think so. This is a problem that is starting to play at ABV and other workplaces across America. Some ABV activists say they are worried that the company is putting risks ahead for the safety and health of its American employees and their families. Also, they say they feel pressured to come to Lake Illinois, the company is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers with 47,000 global employees. According to its website, ABV employs more than 12,000 employees in the US in four states.

Abbvie is not alone. Epic Systems, an electronic medical records provider in the Midwest, also asked its employees to return to work in the fall – also to preserve their culture. This led the staff to back down from questions of health and the local health department. Epic recently agreed to follow up on its return-to-work plans.

On March 17, AbbVie closed its doors during the outbreak phase at its US locations – days after President Donald Trump declared the epidemic a national emergency. The company brought back the required lab staff, manufacturing staff and some senior leaders on a limited basis during the second phase, which began in early June and on alternate days when specific teams would be on-site, an internal review by CNBC According to the presentation.

Phase three workers, including R&D, sales and marketing staff, were asked to start back on July 13 when the company resumed daily office programs for all on-site workers. Three employees told CNBC that many have decided not to return.

On August 31, phase three employees have now been asked to return to office on Monday, according to a letter sent to employees from US President Jeff Stewart and other company leaders, which was reviewed by CNBC.

“We expect a return to pre-COVID, regular on-site programs and week of work,” the email stated. The fourth phase will bring the remaining employees back to the office – a decision the company has not yet made.

Stewart said that AbbVie had “supportive childcare and e-learning resources” for children at home. The company also implemented security protocols, including partitions, hand sanitizer stations, signage, ventilation, and webcams for video-based conversations in the conference room.

AbbVie declined to comment on its return-to-work plans to CNBC, or provide any further information on its procedures for securing employees. The company did not answer questions about whether there was any flexibility in its policies, especially for those with underlying medical conditions that make them more susceptible to the virus or who live with other vulnerable people.

Other pharmaceutical manufacturers have announced flexible work-from-home policies. For example, Novartis has stated that its workers can do so voluntarily without any pressure. Tylenol producer Johnson & Johnson is bringing employees “back in waves because it’s safe to do so,” spokeswoman Lisa Cannelos told CNBC. The company declined to say when its return-to-work program would begin. Cannelos said it is currently offering “flexible work arrangements for those who need it based on dependent care or underlying health conditions.”

AbbVie agreed to buy Botox-making company Allergen last year for $ 63 billion as it moved more deeply into medical aesthetics. The company was under pressure to diversify its portfolio of drugs beyond Hamira, one of the world’s best drugs, as it faced new competition from rivals. The company announced a global agreement with I-Mab of China to develop and commercialize new cancer treatments.

The Chicago area, where ABV is based, has seen new cases of coronovirus during the past week. But the area’s so-called positivity rate is more than 5% according to the city of Chicago, and its outbreak across the state is bad enough to keep Illinois residents on restricted travel lists of New York and New Jersey. More than 256,000 people have tested positive so far in the state and more than 8,400 have died. Health Department officials said that the virus has started to spread throughout the Middle West.

Employees said the persistence of the outbreak has prevented employees from taking public transportation to Abbey and elsewhere, which is unavoidable for many people who rely on it or frequent crashed company shuttles to work.

“Many employees are commutators who don’t feel comfortable taking the metro,” said one worker, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak to the press. “We think there may be consequences if we don’t go in.”

AbbVie inspires employees to think about what they think. According to an internal email by CNBC, it is launching a formal employee survey on September 22 about its workplace and culture during Covid-19, which was sent to employees earlier this month. The company said it would release the results in November – according to the email many American employees expected to be at their desks.

The trio of CNBC employees said it seemed too late in the survey, noting that the results would not be shared for several months following their planned return to office.

To continue working from home, employees say they need manager approval, but some say they feel intimidated if they request it.

“I don’t think I would be fired immediately if I didn’t come in,” said another employee, whose name was not stated because they were not authorized to talk to the press. “But I worry that I am known as a disruptor.”

Another employee requested anonymity for the same reasons, “Many of us are aligned thinking this is unfair.”

While executives and some managers have offices, many rank-and-file employees say they sit in an open office with cubicles, which studies show is at risk of spreading all types of infections, including coronaviruses. According to an email, to try to reduce any outbreaks, AbbVie told employees that it had constructed a plastic partition.

The attorney says that AbbVie and other employers are within their rights to require employees to work in the office, unless they have a condition that would place them in a high-risk group and are documented – ideally. Confidentially with human resources from. Those who are required to stay at home because of children may qualify for the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires employers to pay “paid sick leave or extended family or medical care for specified reasons related to COVID-19 There is a need to provide employees with leisure ”to companies with less than 500 employees. AbbVie is not among them.

The fear of apprehending Kovid alone can be considered a medical condition under some circumstances, said Troll Valdez, a lawyer specializing in labor and employment law at Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass.

“But that’s between the employee and his doctor,” he said in an interview. “If an employee has a doctor who will say that this fear is a condition with limitations attached to it, and the requested accommodation has to work from home, then they (the company) may have to adjust.”

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