Tasha Murrell wants answers. The former Verizon warehouse worker, who suffered a miscarriage after a supervisor refused her request for light duty, is planning to show up at the company’s annual shareholder meeting today in Orlando. Murrell was one of several women whose claims of pregnancy discrimination were featured in a front-page New York Times story last October. She says that she told her story directly to then-Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam and the company’s board at last year’s shareholder meeting, describing other atrocious workplace “abuses” such as sexual harassment at the warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee. And McAdam vowed that there would be an investigation into the allegations, she says.
“I wanted him to feel my pain, how the women are losing their babies in that building,” Murrell tells Fast Company. “He said he’s going to make sure that the workers there get treated fairly, that there would be a really stern investigation.” The facility is run by XPO Logistics, which processes orders like phones and chargers for Verizon.
But she says that no one at Verizon ever followed up with her and that XPO Logistics effectively walked away from the problem by announcing in February that it would be shutting down the facility. Initially, it was reported that the move left about 400 workers out of a job, though a company rep says that all hourly workers in that facility were offered jobs in our other facilities in Memphis.
The facility attracted notoriety due to temperatures that topped 100 degrees, causing some employees to suffer heat exhaustion. When one woman, Linda Neal, collapsed on the warehouse floor and later died of cardiac arrest in October 2017, Murrell claims that she and other workers were told by a supervisor not to give her CPR and to keep working, while her body lay there for another hour. “That still haunts me,” says Murrell. “We worked with that lady for so long. She could have been my mom or my aunt.”
At today’s meeting, Murrell will be joined by other workers and two major unions—the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (for which she now works as a field organizer), which is calling for a vote against the company’s executive compensation packages, and the Communications Workers of America, which plans to introduce a shareholder proposal calling for an independent board chair, citing the need for oversight and accountability in the supply chain sector.
Jennifer Womack, a Verizon call center worker upset about what she claims are the company’s anti-union efforts at her workplace in Irving, Texas, says she plans to ask current Verizon chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg, “Why is Verizon Wireless trying to stop me and my co-workers from organizing?”
In the wake of the pregnancy allegations, XPO hired Tina Tchen of Buckley, LLC to conduct an internal investigation. She recommended additional procedures, education and training of supervisors and workers, adding that she was “pleased that the Company responded immediately” by adopting a new Pregnancy Care Policy that “far exceeds any federal, state, or local requirements.”
Last October, a rep for XPO Logistics told the Times: “The false and misleading allegations directed at our Memphis facility are fueled by the Teamsters and are part of their ongoing, but unsuccessful, attempts at organizing.” A spokesperson for Verizon did not return a request for comment from Fast Company, but a rep told the Times last October that it was opening an internal investigation into the claims, adding: “We have no tolerance—zero tolerance—for this sort of alleged behavior.” (Note: Fast Company editorial employees are represented by the Writers Guild of America, East)
This story has been updated.