‘It’s life or death at this point’: Worker fears business is staying open unnecessarily, putting community at risk

MADISON, Wis. – As the Safer at Home order goes into effect, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is getting a plenty of questions from businesses asking for clarification.

The order from Gov. Tony Evers is more than a dozen pages, listing businesses that are deemed essential and allowed to stay open.

A man, who News 3 Now agreed to keep anonymous because he fears he could face retaliation at work, is avoiding his workplace until he’s sure the state deems it essential during the pandemic.

“I believe that’s putting me and my family and the general public at risk,” he said. “It’s life or death at this point. It’s asinine not to think so.”

He’s a management worker at a company that builds frames, which is owed by a larger area company specializing in home furnishings and decor.

The worker said originally, his company was planning to close, but instead chose to stay open.

“The companies sell on Home Depot, Lowes and other hardware store websites, and we sell to organizations that do installations of art pieces that we framed for them in hospitals … so the company considered themselves to be part of the medical and hardware supplies infrastructure, even though the company is selling frames (and) decor, primarily,” he said. “I think any rational-minded person can agree that art on the walls is pretty, but it’s not necessary to the hospital or anything.”

Missy Hughes, the secretary and CEO of WEDC, said the agency is working through many requests from businesses looking for clarification on whether they should be considered essential.

“Public health and safety in this issue as we’re facing COVID-19 is our north star,” Hughes said. “We’ve gotten a lot of requests, which is great, because it means people want to do the right thing. We’re working our way through the requests, trying to answer them in batches.”

Hughes recommends that anyone who is unsure if a business should be deemed essential first take a close look at the governor’s order, then visit the WEDC website. Those who still have questions can fill out a form seeking clarification.

For employees who think their business is staying open unnecessarily, “reach out to the employer and ask for their reasoning and why they feel they fall under the order,” Hughes said. “Employees could reach out to their law enforcement or local authorities and raise a concern there.”

The anonymous worker is still waiting to hear back from his employer with his concerns

“If this company is willing to make this decision in this time, there are others,” he said.

In the meantime, he said he will do what’s essential for him, “so that I can look my daughter in the eye and look myself in the face and feel OK about my decisions.”

News 3 Now reached out to the man’s employer but have yet to hear back.