Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The 11th nominee for the “Worst Employer of 2022” is … the cable guy

When 83-year-old Betty Jo Thomas missed her family's Christmas dinner in December 2019, they went to her home to check up on her. They found her stabbed to death on her living room floor. Footage from Thomas' Ring doorbell revealed that the last person to enter her home was Roy Holden, a (now former) Charter Spectrum field technician.

Holden had performed a service call in Ms. Thomas' home. The next day Holden returned, allegedly off-duty but in his company-issued and branded van, to again help Thomas. While in her home, Thomas caught Holden stealing credit cards from her purse. In response, Holden brutally stabbed her with his Charter Spectrum utility knife and went on a spending spree with her stolen credit cards.

Holden has since been convicted of the murder and is now serving out a life prison sentence.

Thomas' family sued Charter Spectrum over its responsibility for her murder. After a mere two hours of deliberations, a jury recently returned a $7.3375 billion verdict ($337.5 million in compensatory damages and $7 billion in punitive damages). That's more than half of the company's entire quarterly revenue.

Charter Spectrum didn't murder Betty Jo Thomas, its employee did. So how did it earn its very worthy Worst Employer nomination? Let's count the ways.

1/ When Charter acquired Time Warner in 2016, it scrapped its employee screening program. It then hired Holden without verifying his employment history, which would have revealed lies about his work history that would have prevented his hire.

2/ Holden's supervisors ignored a series of red flags, including Holden's own pleas to management for help because of severe distress over financial and family problems, which had led him to live in his company-issued van.

3/ There have been more than 2,500 thefts by Spectrum employees against customers in the past several years, which the company refused to investigate or report to police.

4/ The company forged Thomas' signature on an arbitration agreement and then tried to use it to force her family's lawsuit into arbitration.

The coup de grace for the $7+ billion verdict, however, was not employment-related at all. After her murder, the cable company kept sending Thomas an overdue bill that included a charge of $58.94 for the service call that led to her murder.

According to one of the family's lawyers, "This was a shocking breach of faith by a company that sends workers inside millions of homes every year." He's not wrong. And that's why Charter Spectrum earned its well-deserved spot on this year's list of Worst Employer nominees.

* Tip o' the hat to Marc Alifanz and Kate Bischoff for sharing this awful story on their Hostile Work Environment podcast and bringing it my attention.