Tallahassee construction project engineer loses her job when employer denies work-at-home during COVID-19 pandemic

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Cascades Project
The Cascades Project in Tallahassee. (Photo from DAG Architects.)

Katherine Webster, 25, says she was fired from her job after she asked to work from home for her Tallahassee construction engineering job because of COVID-19 concerns.

Webster has an autoimmune illness called interstitial cystitis, and her 9-year-old son has diabetes and asthma, The Tallahassee Democrat reports. She had concerns that she would become infected and bring the disease home to her son.

The newspaper says her employer, Tower Construction Management, is contracted by Robert Finvarb Companies to build the interior of the AC Hotel by Marriott. The hotel is part of the $158 million mixed-use Cascades Project in downtown Tallahassee.

Her duties included reading blueprints, overseeing subcontractors, corresponding design flaws and processing construction submittals.

When three cases were confirmed in Leon County on March 18, Webster says she sent an email to Tower Construction, asking to work from home or have unpaid leave.

The newspaper story continues:

Tower Construction owner Jake Torres replied, asked her to return her laptop, offered a Publix gift card and said he would reach out to her for future job opportunities “you may be able to perform remotely and without supervision,” according to screenshots of the correspondence provided by Webster.

She wrote back, “I have not made the decision to stop working with TCM … My entire position is based around being available via computer and phone which I have expressed multiple times (I have) no issue with.”

A staffing company manager wrote to Webster and said her position was temporary, that “the assignment is over,” the email read. Her position was scheduled to last through December.

“Since you can only work from home, I will see what we can do about finding an assignment that doesn’t require being physically at an office,” the manager said, according to screenshots of the emails.

“If this entire situation drags out longer and the kids don’t go back to school, or I can’t find a job, then I’m not really sure what’s going to happen,” she was quoted as saying. “That’s been a huge stressor for me the last few days.”
The Democrat writes that it called Torres for comment. “I don’t have any comments,” it reported he said before abruptly hanging up. Calls to Robert Finvarb Companies were not returned before the story was originally published on March 25, The Democrat says.

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