MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Epic Systems is requiring its 9,000-plus employees to return to work in person at its sprawling campus outside of Madison by Sept. 21.
The health software company is one of the first large employers in the state to no longer give employees the choice of working from home.
"We do our best work when together," Ashley Gibson, a company spokeswoman, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "And we are working to bring everyone back safely so we can do that."
Epic workers decried the order, saying company CEO Judy Faulkner was ignoring public health advice, according to a statement made in conjunction with the Industrial Workers of the World labor union.
The Wisconsin State Journal said the statement claims that Faulkner and the company believe that "a culture of chance encounters in the hallways is more important than the untold deaths that will occur both indirectly by spread through the broader community and directly from forcing workers into close quarters when they don't need to be."
The employees called on Epic to allow workers to continue to work from home through at least the end of the year. Epic is exempt from mass gathering requirements for meetings under the July emergency health order because it falls under health care operations, said Christy Vogt, health education coordinator for Public Health Madison and Dane County.
Faulkner, in an email to employees on Monday, defended the decision.
"Staff who have returned to campus say there are many reasons why working at Epic is better," Faulkner wrote. "For example, they say that when we are at work we are on the Epic network and connections to the software and each other are better. You can shut the office door and focus without distractions, which is not always possible if you live with others or in a noisy environment."
Epic had revenue of $3.2 billion in 2019 and has 28 buildings on its 1,048-acre campus. Epic is one of the world's two largest software companies for electronic health records.
Faulkner described Epic employees as "heroes helping heroes" who were needed amid the pandemic
"As a healthcare company, we support those on the frontlines of patient care," Faulkner wrote. "Our work helps the lives and health of millions of people, and especially at this very challenging time, we have a responsibility to do our best. And we need to do it safely."