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caption: Shoppers visit a Costco Wholesale in Tigard, Ore., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, after reports of Oregon's first case of coronavirus was announced in the nearby Oregon city of Lake Oswego on Friday. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)
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Shoppers visit a Costco Wholesale in Tigard, Ore., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, after reports of Oregon's first case of coronavirus was announced in the nearby Oregon city of Lake Oswego on Friday. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)
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Costco says equity is why it can't allow office work from home

While other companies are heeding public health requests to allow work from home, Costco Wholesale Corp. says its head office employees in Issaquah must report to work.

Last week, health officials in King County asked workplaces to allow people who can work from home to do so. Amazon, Microsoft, and hundreds of other companies took that advice.

But at Costco, office workers are being told they must continue to report to their offices for equity's sake.

In an email Costco CEO W. Craig Jelinek reminds workers that the vast majority of Costco employees are in stores and warehouses, and don't have the option to work from home.

“This decision may be unpopular with some, but we consider it a matter of equity and fairness.”

Both Costco and Amazon each have about 250,000 warehouse workers.

Amazon has more than 50,000 head office workers, and the company allowed many of them to work from home days ago.

Costco’s head office is much smaller than Amazon's. One worker told KUOW it is frequently hard to understand the company's policy. The worker, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, said even meetings being streamed on the internet must only be viewed at the office.

Concerns about coronavirus have spread in the Seattle region. However, the person said the company has long been serious about not allowing office workers anything that looks like special privileges. Many executives themselves rose through the ranks from warehouse jobs.

Both Amazon and Costco are responding to the threat of coronavirus.

Amazon says it is loosening workplace policies for the month of March, so that workers who must show up on the job can use sick leave and unlimited unpaid leave if coronavirus becomes an issue for them.

Jelinek’s email says any absence due to coronavirus will be excused.