Christian personal finance guru Dave Ramsey hopes his staff will spread peace and goodwill during the Christmas season.
They may also be spreading COVID-19.
Ramsey Solutions, the company founded by the bestselling author and radio host, plans to host “Boots & BBQ,” a large in-person Christmas party, for hundreds of staff members at the company’s Franklin, Tennessee, headquarters, despite an outbreak of more than 50 cases at the company’s headquarters as late as mid-November.
An invitation, sent to the company’s 800 staffers in a newsletter obtained by RNS, advises that no children are allowed at the Christmas bash and that employees are limited to one guest apiece. No mention is made of masks being required.
In staff meetings and on his radio show, Ramsey described masks and other COVID-19 prevention strategies as a sign of fear.
More than 2,500 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Tennessee, where more than 5,200 people have died of complications from the virus. There have been more than 428,000 cases of COVID-19 in the state.
Ramsey Solutions does not require masks at its offices — Dave Ramsey himself has been a vocal opponent of mask-wearing and other COVID restrictions. In a clip from his daily radio show, posted on YouTube in November, Ramsey railed against what he called “totalitarian” government restrictions and mask mandates, saying he wanted to “start a crusade” against them.
The Dave Ramsey Show is known for its host’s folksy financial advice balanced with a moralizing disdain for debt. One of the show’s highlights is a listener’s call featuring a “debt-free scream” to mark their liberation from consumer debt using Ramsey’s methods.
Since March, Ramsey Solutions has had about 100 cases of COVID-19 among its employees, according to a recording of a mid-November staff call obtained by Religion News Service.
Among that number were about 50 cases in mid-November, Ramsey Solutions Executive Director of Human Resources Armando Lopez told staff on the Nov. 13 call.
“There are 50 people that are somewhere in the neighborhood who are either positive or returning to work,” Lopez said.
Ramsey Solutions did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Lopez or other leaders.
During the November call, Lopez acknowledged the entire country — including suburban Williamson County, where Ramsey Solutions is located — was seeing spiking COVID-19 numbers. “Williamson County has seen a huge increase in COVID cases. And so have we. Ramsey Solutions has seen a huge spike,” said Lopez.
The human resources director also said he feared the numbers were higher, admitting the company lacked an accurate system for tracking COVID-19 cases.
Despite the number of positive cases, Lopez told staff in November there were no plans to allow remote working. The company allowed staff to work from home during the initial weeks of the pandemic but has required them to return to company headquarters since May.
Lopez said Ramsey Solutions leadership had decided it was not “a work from home employer.”
“Can we be a work from home employer for a short period of time?” he said on the Nov. 13 call. “We have proven for five weeks it works. Can we? Yes. Are we? No.”
That message was repeated in a company newsletter sent on Nov. 20, which reported 32 positive cases among staff and another 17 staff awaiting tests. The newsletter encouraged staff to report any COVID-19 test results to human resources but maintained that the company would continue operating out of headquarters.
“We know that many of you have felt pressure from family and friends, some of whom think you are ‘weird’ for still going in to work,” said the newsletter.
“Fortunately we work in a place that is used to being called weird,” the newsletter continued, then highlighted Ramsey Solutions’ “countercultural approach to business.”
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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Bob Smietana