What to do if your RV manufacturer fails to protect you during pandemic
Since Indiana began to reopen, a lot of focus is on the surge in COVID-19 cases in Elkhart. Elkhart, has also been the source of many complaints from those working in the RV industry recently, who feel unsafe in their workplace.
"It's elbow to elbow depending on what your job is and where you are at on the line. I know that there is time where I'm sharing a 10 ft. x 25 ft. box with nine people," an anonymous Elkhart RV employee told 16 New Now on camera.
Elkhart, one of the Michiana's leading coronavirus hotspots, is also home to the RV capital of the world and over the last couple of months, that world has been turned upside down as many RV employees have said they have struggled to find their safe spot during the pandemic.
"There is no concern with how we are spreading this or what we are doing as far as the employees go. They really just care about numbers and getting the units out that they promised in contract that they would be able to produce," the anonymous employee says.
The idea of many returning to work, and COVID-19 spreading throughout the workplace unknowingly has also been a major concern for many employees, one that some say is being kept secret among upper management to keep production going and protect the company's bottom line.
"Nothing is being told to us. People are there one day and then, you don't see them the rest of the week," the anonymous employee stated.
"They are not talking to us. Very few people have been notified by management that they think they may have been in contact and have been ordered to stay home for two weeks, but I, myself, have come in contact with some of the people they had stay home so why am I still there?" the anonymous employee said.
In addition, health officials say Elkhart's recent spike in coronavirus cases may have contributed to many people returning back to work, including people in the RV industry.
"I think it is a little of businesses going back and reopening, which they need to, but I do think there is quite a few businesses that are taking this seriously," Elkhart County Emergency Management Director Jennifer Tobey says.
One business who says they're taking safety protocols seriously is RV manufacturer Thor Industries. Senior Vice President Todd Woelfer told 16 News Now over the phone Tuesday that his company has come up with a 40-page "Return-To-Work Playbook' to help guide both management and employees.
"Knowing that we would be operating in the face of a pandemic, we spent a lot of time studying, researching, and contacting our healthcare providers," Woelfer says.
When asked about several employees, outside of Thor Industries, who claim their workplace has failed to protect them, Woelfer was very candid in his response.
"If that's true, operating an RV company in the face of the pandemic without appropriate safety protocols being in place is extremely dangerous. Not just for employees, it's dangerous to the community, it's dangerous for our industry," Woelfer said.
If an RV employee has issue with the safety of the workplace, Tobey says that employee should seek management for help. But according to the same anonymous worker who spoke to 16 News Now face-to-face, it's not that easy.
"Management is not approachable, especially the way they do things. They just want things done the way they are used to them getting done and they don't want people fighting back and questioning their authority," the anonymous RV employee says.
Woelfer says if you are struggling to find your safe spot at work during this pandemic, and afraid to approach management in fear of losing you job, consider filing a
on the Indiana Department of Labor's website. However, that is not the only thing Woelfer says RV employees should consider.
"The message to them would be if they are legitimately concerned about their safety, then that should come first. Consider where you are working because there are places that are operating very safely in the face of this pandemic," Woelfer says.
For most employees, they say safety has always come first, but for some of their employers, it reportedly has not.
"I know I have coworkers who take care of their sick parents at home and I could unknowingly be spreading this virus to dozens of people at once at work that are taking it home to their families. It is just difficult to want to show up everyday to make a living knowing that I'm part of the problem."
If you are an employee in the RV industry and want to file an anonymous complaint against your employer, please