A Message from Bill Barcus
Let me begin by saying thank you.
The past several weeks have been a time of extraordinary uncertainty. During this time, you have faithfully served our customers, our communities and our company. In return, we want to ensure that Sebastian remains a great place to work and a place where you can prosper.
As you know, Sebastian has been designated a provider of essential services. This means we have both the privilege and the responsibility to keep serving our customers and our communities. We are keeping customers connected to family and friends through our communication and data networks, and we are building critical infrastructure for our communities through our construction teams.
During this time, Sebastian is committed to providing you with a safe place to work. We have made accommodation to our workforce, allowing some to work from home, ensuring proper social-distancing for those remaining in the office, providing regular sanitation of our workplaces, and encouraging proper individual hygiene.
We are unsure how long these conditions will last, but we will communicate with you regularly while they do. Our company email updates will continue. Our monthly ECC meetings will continue (with an emphasis on addressing continued concerns).
Thank you again for your loyalty and commitment. Good luck to us all,
April 24th, 2020
We would like to provide another COVID-19 update. Since operations under the shelter-in-place orders have become our “new normal”, we will be providing further updates on an as-needed basis.
- As we have discussed previously, the recently passed CARES Act (federal legislation) provided several COVID-related benefits for employees and employers. As part of this program, Sebastian was one of over 1.6 million businesses to apply for and receive loan funds. These funds provide Sebastian with additional resources and flexibility to maintain operations during these difficult and uncertain times.
- We thank employees for continuing to practice safety measures (e.g. frequent hand-washing and physical distancing) and ask you to continue these practices for the safety of yourself and your co-workers.
- We remind employees working out of Fresno that masks are required by the city’s latest shelter-in-place order. Please inform HR if you do not have a mask.
- Remember to complete your wellness screening each morning and report any concerning symptoms to HR immediately.
- Please avoid contributing to any rumors or gossip surrounding COVID-19. This is a serious matter, as we are obligated to follow up on any concerns, and false rumors do nothing but create additional anxiety for staff.
- Our email hotline (COVID@sebastiancorp.com) remains available if you have any questions or concerns.
As always, we thank you for your ongoing dedication in providing essential services to our customers during this uncertain time.
April 13th, 2020
We are transitioning our regular COVID-19 updates from every other day to at least once per week (with additional updates if needed). We are at a point where we have established the necessary day-to-day protocols and are managing them, in addition to keeping up with new local, state, and federal requirements.
- Tomorrow, the governor is expected to announce a framework for recovery, anticipating a transition back to normalcy. We will keep you informed.
- New public health orders have been issued, requiring that essential businesses implement social distancing for employees in the office. We have already taken these steps but will be required to document them.
- Employees working in the Fresno office will be required to wear masks due to the latest public health order. Masks will be distributed tomorrow (one surgical mask per employee). If you need additional masks, please let your supervisor know.
- Employees are encouraged to supply their own mask if possible, as supplies are limited and are being prioritized for those required to interact with the public. If you choose to supply your own mask, we recommend following the instructions provided by the Center for Disease Control.
- How to Wear a Cloth Face Covering
Again, we thank our employees for their dedication. It is vital that we continue to practice safety measures (physical distancing, frequent hand washing, etc.) so that we can accelerate the transition back to business as usual.
April 7th, 2020
Here is the latest update regarding COVID-19 and our response. Today we are providing you with information that might be beneficial to you regarding your benefits. We would also like to address several misconceptions about how the virus spreads.
- Congress recently passed the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), which includes benefits specific to 401(k) plans. Please read the attached fact sheet and contact Human Resources if you have further questions.
- Anthem Blue Cross has announced that member cost shares will be waived for subscribers receiving COVID-19 care from health care professionals in their plan’s network from April 1, 2020 through May 31, 2020.
- COVID-19 testing is also covered.
- Cost-share amounts will also be waived for telehealth visits with in-network doctors through June 14, 2020.
- Kaiser Permanente has updated its National Benefit Policy effective April 1, 2020, to include waiving out-of-pocket costs for treatment related to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
- New guidance has been issued by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommending that Americans wear face coverings in public.
- Sebastian is already supplying masks for employees whose work requires contact with the public, and we recommend their use. Given that masks are in limited supply, (and their production being prioritized for health workers), employees may also supply their own masks or cloth face coverings.
- Please remember these important facts:
- There is no evidence that COVID-19 has been, or can be, transmitted through the mail.
- Experts say that we should not be concerned about catching the disease from prepared food – the biggest risk would be sitting next to someone who is ill when eating your meal. Remember to practice physical distancing, even during breaks and meals.
- For those hourly employees working from home, you are still required to take and record your meal and rest breaks.
- Supervisors should be continuing to collect screening forms for their team daily. Please contact Human Resources with questions
April 3rd, 2020
Please take a moment to read this important message. We would like to share additional information and address misconceptions regarding our COVID-19 safety measures, our obligations as an essential services provider, and your options as an employee.
- We remain classified as an “essential business” and have an obligation to continue serving our customers. This enables Sebastian to keep our employees working during a time when unemployment is dramatically increasing. If the “essential” classification of our lines of business changes in the future, we will notify employees immediately.
- We have confirmed that all state and federal safety precautions are being followed at worksites and that we are in compliance with OSHA standards.
- Our Safety Manager has visited all Central Valley construction sites to ensure proper precautions are in place. She will be visiting North Valley sites next week to verify compliance.
- We ask staff to immediately report any instances of employees not following the safety measures put in place by their supervisor or foreman.
- Field employees: If hand wash stations or sanitization supplies are not available, please report this immediately.
- There is a misconception that employees can take unemployment if they do not wish to work. This is not correct. Any employees who cannot or do not wish to work should contact Human Resources to discuss their options.
- As a reminder: Continue to practice frequent hand-washing and physical distancing. Field personnel are being provided with PPE (gloves, masks, face shields) and we encourage their use.
- Please be assured that management is assessing the situation daily, keeping up with the latest information, making changes as needed, and sharing information with employees as quickly as possible. The situation continues to change rapidly.
April 2nd, 2020
- With the new employee screening processes in place, any employee who knows they would be answering “yes” to any of the questions should be contacting their supervisor or Human Resources before reporting to work, if possible. Do not enter company facilities without further direction. Signs will be posted at all building entrances reminding personnel of this rule.
- We have taken additional steps to limit foot traffic within company facilities. This is for the health and safety of our employees, our families, and our customers.
- We remind all employees that requests for COVID-related sick leave or EFMLA (under the new federal law) must be submitted to Human Resources with supporting documentation.
- Employees should not be carpooling at this time (especially those working in the field). Employees should also not be taking lunch in groups.
- Your feedback on the employee wellness screening questionnaires is welcomed. If you are have any questions or concerns regarding the new screening process, please contact Human Resources.
- Please report any shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) or sanitizing supplies to our Safety Manager. Supplies are limited and are increasingly being rationed by vendors. We are working hard to keep our inventories stocked.
March 31st, 2020
- Fresno County has issued a new order requiring employees to be screened daily at the beginning of their shift. We are reviewing these requirements and will be educating supervisors on the process ASAP. We will be following up with more information in our next employee update.
- Screening forms will be filled out daily and turned in to supervisors.
- For those employees in the field, the foreman will fill out the form for each member of the crew.
- Supervisors will be keeping a log of these screening sheets and will provide reports to Human Resources as required.
- We will be implementing these procedures company-wide.
- Posters on safety precautions should be in place at worksites. If you are missing posters, please notify Human Resources ASAP.
- Please remember to continue practicing all necessary precautions (frequent handwashing, sanitization, and use of protective equipment when necessary.
March 25th, 2020
First, we would like to reiterate that any concerns regarding COVID-19 should be communicated to Human Resources.
The federal government has passed new legislation providing additional benefits for employees. These benefits will go into effect on April 1st. Human Resources is reviewing the new legislation and will be following up with all employees shortly with more details.
ALL medical plans are now covering diagnostic testing and related services for COVID-19 at 100% with no deductibles or co-pays. This includes services provided by doctors, emergency rooms, and urgent care centers leading up to a decision that testing is necessary along with the actual lab-based testing. The mandate does not extend to treatment at this time.
If you are a homeowner and are struggling to make mortgage payments, the Governor of California has announced that Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan, and US Bank have agreed to a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments. If you use a different lender, you can also check with them to see if similar assistance is being offered.
We’d like to remind all employees of the importance of frequent hand washing and physical distancing. Management is working hard to keep our inventory stocked with soap, sanitizer, etc., and we continue to sanitize surfaces in common areas multiple times per day.
Please take advantage of technology (email, cell phones, videoconferencing, etc.) to reduce the need for in-person contact. If you need assistance with any of these technological solutions, please contact the helpdesk (firstname.lastname@example.org or 559-846-HELP).
March 23rd, 2020
Here are the latest updates on our operations related to COVID-19. Please see here for a brochure from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding precautions for avoiding infection, and actions to take if you feel you may be infected. Please read it and let management know if you have questions.
We would also like to provide you with a link to the CDC’s website, which provides more information and a “self-check” tool:
- As a reminder – if you are feeling ill, please do not report to work. Contact your supervisor and seek medical assistance if needed.
- If an employee has previously displayed symptoms but has been cleared to return to work, they will be asked to wear a mask. If you have not already been provided one, please contact your manager or Human Resources.
- Bottled water is now being rationed by stores. We need to prioritize the availability of safe drinking water for our field personnel, so we will not be stocking the offices with bottled water. Each office should have water dispensers or fountains available for staff to obtain clean drinking water.
- Our business offices have now been closed to the public. Vendors and delivery drivers are being provided with special instructions to minimize the need to enter our buildings or make contact with staff.
- We are continuing to work with managers to identify situations where it is necessary and feasible for employees to work remotely.
- Our email “hotline” remains available for any employee to directly contact Human Resources and executive management with questions or concerns.
- If you know of anyone who is not receiving this email, please bring it to management’s attention so that we can ensure they are receiving these updates.
Once again, we want to express our thanks to our employees for ensuring that our communities retain access to the critical services that Sebastian provides.
March 20th, 2020
First, we want to thank all our employees for your willingness to support our customers during this uncertain time. Providing critical services is something that we take pride in as a company, but it also means that we have an obligation to serve during difficult times. We appreciate your commitment to your work.
Yesterday, the Governor of California issued an order that extends Fresno and Sacramento’s “shelter in place” guidelines state-wide. Executive management has reviewed this order. We remain confident that our operations fall within the federal government’s definition of “critical infrastructure work” and that employees should remain on the job. We have also taken steps to keep our workplaces safe through measures such as “social distancing” (workers no closer than six feet apart) and sanitizing the office three times per day.
We understand that this is an uncertain time, and that some employees may have concerns about reporting to their job site. If so, please contact Human Resources to discuss your options before making the decision not to report to work.
Due to health concerns, the executive team has made the decision to cancel our Annual Awards Banquet. However, we will still be publishing a company yearbook and honoring employees through Outstanding Performance Awards. Please be sure to provide your department highlights, and any OPA nominations, to Sarah Gonzales.
We would also like to share the following information with you:
- It is important that you report any potential concerns or exposures to management immediately. Please address your concerns to HR/executive management directly.
- We are analyzing the feasibility and necessity of working from home for office personnel. Your manager may be in contact with you to gather information related to this analysis. We already have several employees who are working from home due to circumstances that require it.
- We are in the process of closing our business offices to the public and will be providing customer assistance by phone, mail, and electronically.
- Sebastian’s benefits package includes access to a free Employee Assistance Program, with resources including counseling, financial planning, etc. Please take advantage of this benefit if it would be useful to you and your family. More information is available from Human Resources or at this link: http://www.insighteap.com/.
- Any employees who are allergic to cleaning and sanitization products (Clorox wipes, Lysol, hand sanitizer, etc.) should notify Human Resources immediately so that we can accommodate you.
- Under the new rules, a jobsite owner or general contractor CAN request an employee’s temperature to be taken to verify their health. However, a Sebastian representative would be the one to perform this test – not the general contractor or project owner.
March 19th, 2020
Management continues to monitor the rapidly changing situation regarding COVID-19. At this time, we plan to provide updates to staff at least every other day. We believe that frequent and open communication is the best way forward during uncertain times. We ask that staff remain calm and confident that management is monitoring the situation – if new information becomes available, we will adjust our response, as necessary.
To ensure that employees have an easy way to communicate questions or concerns to management, we want to keep an open form of communication with HR and our Executive staff.. Our goal is to respond quickly – we will attempt to respond by close of business to any inquiries sent before noon and will respond by the next business day to any emails received after that point.
We would like to remind employees that it is important for each worksite to consistently follow the same safety protocols at each location. For example, all locations should be wiping down frequently touched surfaces two to three times daily. Any questions regarding safety protocols should be addressed to HR or to the email address above.
It is also very important that any concerns regarding exposure to the virus are IMMEDIATELY communicated to Human Resources. Decisions on issues related to COVID-19 should not be made without consulting with Human Resources.
We will follow up tomorrow with another update. In the meantime, please feel free to use the new email distribution group for any questions or concerns.
March 18th, 2020
Sebastian considers the health and safety of our employees and their families our priority. Our company has been monitoring developments with COVID-19. When responding to an infectious disease, our company closely follows the recommendations made by our state and county health departments. We also monitor and follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plus the World Health Organization.
The situation continues to change rapidly. Health and governmental officials are taking preventative measures intended to reduce the spread of the disease. These measures include the closure of schools and certain types of businesses. “Shelter in place” directives are being issued, asking citizens to remain at home except for necessary errands, or to perform work that is essential to the community. Such a directive has already been issued in Sacramento, and another will be going into effect in Fresno tomorrow.
How Does This Impact Sebastian?
Businesses performing essential work – including telecommunications/Internet services, other infrastructure services, and trades such as electrical work – are exempted from the “shelter in place” directives. Management believes that Sebastian’s work falls within these exemptions. Public health officials recommend that employees engaged in essential tasks continue to practice “social distancing” – keeping at least six feet away from others and taking other standard precautions (washing frequently, etc.) We are also in close contact with general contractors and project owners and will follow their directives regarding jobsites.
How Does This Impact Me?
Sebastian has taken steps to mitigate the risk of infection in the workplace. Because we provide services that are essential, employees are still expected to report to work unless other arrangements have been made with their supervisor, or unless they are feeling ill. In that event, employees should notify their supervisor and seek medical assistance if needed.
What Steps Is Sebastian Taking?
Steps taken by Sebastian include the following:
- Frequent disinfection of commonly touched surfaces, such as door handles
- Distributing supplies such as hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, masks, and gloves to all offices and to field personnel
- Relocating employee workspaces to facilitate “social distancing” (working more than six feet apart)
- Reducing or eliminating travel and face-to-face meetings
- Allowing telecommuting when necessary and appropriate
- Creating an internal crisis team responsible for keeping up with the latest information and communicating with employees
Management will continue to monitor the situation and will provide regular updates to employees. We understand that the future is uncertain, and that uncertainty creates stress. We will do our best to keep employees informed as quickly as possible.
If you have questions about these policies or how they impact you, please contact your supervisor. Supervisors – if you have questions, please contact Human Resources.