Lawyer's warning to owners of bed bug infested business: 'Act fast'

CHAMBLEE, Ga. — A local attorney says that hundreds of employees at a local business with a serious bed bug problem have a case. And he says the company better act fast.

The bedbugs are on the walls and floors of the Wipro Call Center in Chamblee, Ga. and some employees say they’ve been bitten – and fear bringing them home.  Those employees aren’t sure where to turn now that the bugs are infesting their office.

“They need to find a remedy and find it fast,” lawyer Ed Buckley said.

► Employees say they’re forced to work amid bed bug infestation

Ed Buckley, a partner at Buckley and Beal, says Georgia law requires employers to have a safe workplace free of infestation.  The bed bugs have been at Wipro since May. The company is treating the building but employees said they’ve been told that if they want to get paid, they have to go to work – bugs or not.

“I want a reasonable accommodation,” Buckley said. “I want to work at a workplace that’s free of infestation. So I’d like to telecommute. I’d like to work from home. Since it’s a call center, that shouldn’t be that hard to do.”

Now the DeKalb Department of Health and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating.

“Repeated exposures to bed bug bites during a period of several weeks or more causes people to become sensitized to the saliva of these bugs,” the health department said in a statement. “Additional bites may then result in mild to intense allergic responses.”

OSHA explains that “under federal law, employees are entitled to a safe workplace” and that “each employer must provide a workplace free of known health and safety hazards.”

On Thursday, 11Alive asked how long the treatment process could take. The facilities manager said it could be 3 to 6 months – or maybe even 5 to 6 years.

“I don’t think it’s satisfactory that the employer says they’re working on it and it may take months or years to fix it and the employees are required and expected to come into the workplace every day and suffer insect bites,” Buckley said.

Winpro has since responded to 11Alive with the following statement:

“We take the health and safety of our employees extremely seriously. We are taking appropriate action and putting in place necessary precautionary measures to ensure the workplace is safe and secure for our employees.”

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