A bug infestation has reportedly taken over Harte Hanks, an international marketing company with a call center in Texarkana. Some say the insect problem is so bad that a majority of the roughly 500 employees are being bitten and stung on a daily basis.
“And they expect hundreds of employees to sit and get eaten alive all day long and still preform perfectly at our jobs,” said Mary,a customer service agent whose name has been changed to protect her identity.
The type of insect that has taken over the facility at North Robison Road is unclear. But Mary, who’s been with Harte Hanks for over a year, said some employees have a theory.
“At first they were small white bugs. The talk around work is that they are mites or body lice. But now, we also have brown and black bugs. And we are not getting anywhere (talking to management) with it. We’ve talked to Human Resources and they give us Off! Insect Repellent to spray on ourselves to repel the mites or whatever type of bugs these are. And some people are allergic to that spray. It’s ridiculous,” she said.
Harte Hanks did not respond to TXK Today’s repeated requests for comment.
Mary said she spoke to her immediate supervisor, the Human Resources Department at Harte Hanks and the Site Administrator. She ultimately called the local health department who in turn told her to call the state health department, which she did. The state health department is expected to return her calls sometime within the next several business days.
“I’m not sure who I spoke with but she did call me back after I had reported it. And she said it would be something that the state would handle.”
In Mary’s department at Harte Hanks, the bug problem has only been an issue since last week, she said. But others haven’t been as lucky.
“I have been hearing about it from other departments for about six to eight months! Then, they started expanding my department and the bugs started spreading.
“These bugs are really itchy,” Mary continued. “I, along with other employees, have had headaches and upset stomachs. The bites that we have been getting swell up and are almost like fire ant bites. People have had to go home and lose pay because of this. The HR Department is telling employees that if we feel we cannot stay at work then the missed time will go against us. And the only way to get it excused is to go through worker’s compensation.”
Mary said her stomach also hurts to the point that she has no appetite. She blames it on the chemical smell from the bug spray.
“I have metallic taste in my mouth. I just feel down-right sick. About two-thirds of the employees here feel the same way I do,” she said. “I have talked to a lot of people around me and I’m getting a lot of reports of that the smell of the chemicals they sprayed is making people feel dizzy, tired feeling, and also sick at their stomachs.”
But going home sick is not an option.
“I am at work, and sicker then I have felt all week. If I were to leave and go home and not get a doctor’s note they could fire me,” Mary said.
To its credit, Harte Hanks did spray for insects this past Monday, June 9, but the fumes are making some employees feel ill, Mary said.
“I was told today, June 12, that they only sprayed the roof and back side of building where about 20 employees are located. We also have a small office-type of room in the back going out to the back parking lot and smoking area. And that (area) smells so bad with strong chemicals.”
Mary said she was unsure if the company hired an outside source to spray for insects or if it was an inside job.
Mary said she intended to file an emergency complaint on Friday with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“Everyone has a right to a safe workplace,” states the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), which was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work.
The law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers. The Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. OSHA also provides information, training and assistance to workers and employers. Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards.
To file a health or workplace complaint in Texas, employees or their representative should contact OSHA at https://www.osha.gov/as/opa/worker/complain.html. If the complaint is deemed an emergency, then workers are advised to contact the Texas regional office at 972-850-4145.