Fiat Chrysler employee questions company’s response after Kokomo auto plant worker tests positive for coronavirus

Fiat Chrysler Kokomo plant production continues after employee tests positive for coronavirus

KOKOMO, Ind. (WISH) — A Fiat Chrysler employee expressed concerns about the company’s response after a worker at the Kokomo Transmission Plant tested positive for coronavirus.

The unidentified male employee infected with COVID-19 is quarantined and receiving medical treatment, according to company and union officials.

Fiat Chrysler learned about the diagnosis on Wednesday, a company spokesperson said in an email to News 8.

The company notified other workers at the Reed Road auto plant — which employs more than 4,000 people — on Thursday.

“Consistent with CDC guidelines and the company’s own protocols, the company has placed into home quarantine his immediate coworkers and others in the facility he may have come into direct contact with,” Jodi Tinson, a Fiat Chrysler spokesperson, said in a statement. 

The company declined to confirm how many people had been quarantined.

Employees began hearing whispers about a possible coronavirus case at the factory more than 24 hours before the company made its announcement, according to a man responsible for producing and repairing specialized parts at the Kokomo Transmission Plant.

He fears retaliation and requested not to be identified in this report.

“The sooner we could have known, the better,” the longtime worker said. “The worst part was not knowing that I possibly could have been exposed to it.”

He visited relatives, including his young grandchildren, the night before supervisors informed him a fellow plant worker had tested positive for coronavirus.

“If [the infected worker] had been in there for even half a day, there’s thousands of people there and who’s to say he couldn’t have walked by hundreds of them?” he said, questioning the company’s handling of the notification process.

Company officials learned about the coronavirus case “later in the day” on Wednesday and “informed employees as soon as possible,” Tinson said in an email to News 8.

Fiat Chrysler did not provide employees with information about factory locations the worker had visited before testing positive for coronavirus.

The concerned employee who spoke with News 8 suffers from asthma, which makes him more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, according to public health officials.

He has vacation days and disability benefits but no paid sick leave, he said.

“A lot of people will go to work, even if they’re sick,” he told News 8. “That’s my bigger fear; that more people end up getting [the novel coronavirus] but they still come to work because it’s how they make a living and they have to take care of their families.”

Tinson was not able to immediately confirm what percentage of Kokomo Transmission Plant employees have paid sick leave.

Company officials have not announced plans to implement any type of emergency sick leave policy.

Operations at the Kokomo Transmission Plant continue “as normal,” according to Tinson.