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3 June 2020
FITTER. BETTER. HAPPIER.
Victor Tangermann

Google Won’t Let Its Army of Contractors Work Remotely

Those who are and aren't permitted to follow best practices are divided by class.
by Dan Robitzski / March 12 2020

As America, especially the Pacific Northwest, continues to face a worsening COVID-19 outbreak, some workers are being left behind.

An increasing number of companies (including Google) are insisting employees stay home and work remotely as much as possible. But Google also enlists a massive amount of contractors — and The Guardian reports that company policy forces these workers to work from their physical offices, and bars them from remote work.

“The [full-time employees] almost all seem to be heeding the recommendation to work from home, while we are sitting here in the Petri dish,” a Google contractor named Josh Borden told The Guardian, “with the choice of not getting paid, or maybe getting sick and then putting our family and friends at risk too.”

Because Google contractors — who may work full-time hours but don’t receive the same benefits as employees — can’t access their work emails or other systems remotely, some weren’t even informed that employees would be working from home until they showed up to campus, The Washington Post reports.

“You don’t know where to go to look for answers,” one such contractor, Amardeep Singh Purewal, told the Post. “Maybe they do it purposefully.”

All in all, the issues dividing giant corporations’ workforces into classes of employees and contractors are proving counterintuitive to the U.S.’s faltering attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

After this story ran, Google reached out with a comment from a spokesperson.

“To serve our users and keep our products running, some work, performed by Google employees, temporary staff and vendors alike, can only be done by people physically present at offices,” the spokesperson said. “We’re taking all necessary and recommended precautions, including increased sanitization and social distancing, a public health best practice.”

In the face of a global pandemic, common-sense workplace practices aren’t being extended to lower-paid and lower-status workers as they are to higher-ups. These are, effectively, categorically, and technically the textbook definition of class issues in practice. Or as that Google contractor, Josh Borden, told The Guardian:

“Our second-class status now has literal health implications.”

Editor’s note 3/17/2020: This story has been updated with a comment from a Google spokesperson.

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