Service King temporarily closed a body shop, sent the facility’s personnel home at 40 percent quarantine pay and fired some area leadership after experiencing its first “cluster outbreak” of COVID-19 last month.
CEO David Cush in a message to employees July 17 said the incident stemmed from “blatant disregard for the rules” at a shop he didn’t identify. His description suggested the outbreak was limited to that one facility.
Cush said the fact that the major national chain had made it this far without such a cluster showed its safety protocols work. Other employees through the company have contracted COVID-19 throughout the months of the pandemic, but the company could trace these incidents to an external source, according to Cush.
This time, Service King’s internal investigation found employees — including leadership — hadn’t been following the company’s pandemic protocols, “and that the enforcement of the rules had been lax,” Cush said.
The infected personnel had been gathering in the shop’s break room without masks and without remaining a safe distance apart, Cush said. Ultimately, six workers at the 17-employee shop tested positive for COVID-19, he said.
“The result of this is sick teammates, lost wages for everyone else at the store, a big cleaning bill, and a couple of members of leadership losing their job at a time … bad to lose your job,” Cush said.
Failure to comply with COVID-19 precautions had “real-world consequences,” Cush said. He encouraged employees to report incidents to a manager or the company’s employee hotline.
“We simply cannot afford to have any more of these cluster outbreaks,” he said.
The Service King incident is an important reminder for employees, leaders and owners that the health threat remains even months into a pandemic. It’s also an important reminder that being part of an essential industry in a reopening economy doesn’t mean a shop is completely free from all COVID-19 financial threat.
Cush said the company should treat this as “a wakeup call.” Service King would weather this event, but such outbreaks on a regular basis would affect the company’s stability, he said.
CDC, May 7, 2020
CDC, May 6, 2020
CDC, May 27, 2020
Featured image: Virus particles from the first U.S. case of COVID-19 are seen in this transmission electron microscopic image. (C.S. Goldsmith and A. Tamin/Centers for Disease Control)