Fox NY claims it became infested with bed bugs “a few weeks ago”; tipster tells Gawker they fired employee who brought them in

by nobugsonme on March 18, 2008 · 19 comments

in bed bug blame game, bed bugs, bed bugs in the workplace, new york, new york city

Someone claimed there were bed bugs in the VIP couch at Fox News’s Manhattan studios in November of 2006. After we followed up, the source claimed she was told this by a Fox producer. That sounded plausible enough, but still, just a rumor.

Then, a year later, in November 2007, someone else claimed there were bed bugs in the Fox newsroom. This second rumor was circulated by mediabistro blogger TVNewser.

Now a Fox executive has told the New York Times that they just recently discovered they had bed bugs in their newsroom, that they have been treated and are gone:

In an interview on Monday, Warren Vandeveer, senior vice president for operations and engineering at Fox News, said the cable channel had realized it had a problem a few weeks ago, when an employee “caught a bug and showed it to us.” An exterminator determined that the incursion was limited to a “very small area in the newsroom.”

The NYTimes claims Vanderveer told them that the problem was discovered “a few weeks ago,” the exterminator’s treatment ended “about a week ago,” and the bed bugs are now “totally eradicated.” If that timeline of detection and treatment is accurate, many experts might say it is too soon to say for sure that the problem is “totally eradicated.”

As for how long ago Fox has had a bed bug problem, is it true that bed bugs only first appeared in the Fox newsroom “a few weeks ago”? Or were they only first verified then?  Were they also there in November 2007 as per TVNewer’s tip? (TVNewser claimed the newsroom was getting pest control treatment last November.) Did TVNewser get faulty information? And were any bed bugs in Fox News in November 2006 as Claudia’s source claimed?

If the 2006 and/or 2007 rumors of bed bugs at Fox were incorrect, it’s a pretty big coincidence that the only station that we’ve heard rumored to be infested with bed bugs — twice — later became infested with bed bugs.

Vanderveer also apparently told the New York Times that

. . . the source of the bugs was not determined until the exterminator inspected the homes of about 20 employees. Mr. Vandeveer said the exterminator later described one employee’s home as having “the worst infestation he had seen in 25 years in the business.”

This raised all kinds of questions in my mind, but foremost in my mind is this one: did Fox insist all newsroom employees had their homes searched, or did they volunteer?

Finding that one employee has a serious, serious bed bug infestation may seem like a smoking gun to Fox, but it actually doesn’t in itself prove the employee brought them in to work (rather than someone else doing so).  I grant that it is highly likely.

But still: what if the home where bed bugs was found was not the worst case PCOs had found in 25 years? In that hypothetical case, would it be fair to link bed bugs to an employee whose home was found to have them? What kind of evidence is needed to verify such a connection? Even if every company employee’s home was searched, which does not seem to be the case here, could such a connection be proven?

Gawker claims to have gotten a tip alleging that the person who brought the bed bugs in was subsequently fired. (Gothamist asks, “Is that even legal?”)

This is the second time we’ve heard an employee was allegedly fired for bringing bed bugs to work. The first we heard of was at Cadwalader.

I am very glad for those who work at Fox that the bed bug infestation was detected and treated. I hope that the treatment which began only a few weeks ago continues until everyone really is certain.

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1 Blue_Ox March 19, 2008 at 6:25 pm

I thought many PCOs hadn’t seen ANY cases of bedbugs before a few years ago. So the comment about “in 25 years in the business” makes me a little suspicious too.

2 nobugsonme March 19, 2008 at 6:31 pm

Blue_Ox, I wondered about that too. “The worst case I have ever seen!” might be more dramatic, though, and would have been an option (unless this person saw bad cases before 1973!) On the other hand, some people DID see bed bug cases before 1999 (see my comments in the Letter from Adam Voiland post yesterday for more on that), and so he certainly could have seen some nightmare cases in the last 25 years.

3 bugbasher March 19, 2008 at 8:14 pm

I personally,don’t agree with the firing of the employee.Now he will still have the bb’s and have no reason or money to to anything about it.Wouldn’t a mandatory extermination and leave of absence(until notification of success by pco) without pay served as a better incentive for them to correct the problem,instead of firing.Now this person will be at the unemployment office spreading bb’s.IMO,everyone has to accept responsibility for this problem and not shoot the messenger,which does nothing to alleviate the situation.

4 BBsBlow March 20, 2008 at 7:38 pm

A friend of mine works at Fox. This person told me that the guy who had the infestation was given a year’s salary in order to leave. He originally wasn’t going to return for a week, but I guess they made him an offer. I can’t help but wonder if he signed something so he wouldn’t sue the network. My friend isn’t particulary worried that bedbugs will hit close to home. Ignorance can be bliss sometimes if one isn’t very, very careful.

5 nobugsonme March 20, 2008 at 9:13 pm

Very interesting, BBsBlow. Thanks for sharing!

6 Jason May 3, 2008 at 2:51 pm

Um, is this really news? Why would anyone care. Other than the people who work and use the VIP room @ fox? Is that really the majority of our population. C’mon people. Wake up. It’s news articles like these that distract you from the real issues…. and I’m not talking about Hilary and Obama.

7 nobugsonme May 3, 2008 at 3:09 pm

Hi Jason,
Welcome to Bedbugger!

This is a website about bed bugs, for people who have them, and so I’m afraid you are wrong– it’s my sense people are interested.

8 Jason May 4, 2008 at 3:24 am

nobugsonme… sorry, I should have clarified. I am well aware that this is a bed bug site, and this story is appropriate here. However, I was referring to how is this in the media and considered news. Why would the NY Times report this? Is this really that important. Say, more important than the constitutionality of our income tax laws, or the legalities of the Patriot Act, or the fact that congress never authorized the war in Iraq. Just saying.

I know this isn’t the place for this, and I apologize to everyone here.

9 prayforamiracle May 4, 2008 at 8:45 am

It was cofirmed we had bbugs in our apt. Mt roomate did not do anything to prep. She wore her same clothes and purses, shoes , that where in the closet by her bed to work, to spend the night at friends. She offered our infested couch to the neighbor. She works in a fancy firm. Her boss, I guess is not worried , I guess, they are working on a huge project and want all the man power they can get. She has packed he stuff up to move, as I have ripped her from one side to the other of HOW can she be so selfish and careless. She is bringing them to her 200 plus employee firm and now to infest a new apt building. She serouisly does not care about this. I think, if someone acts in such a careless manner to infest all the rest of New York. They should be repramanded.

10 nobugsonme May 4, 2008 at 5:26 pm

Hi Jason,
Without encouraging others to join us in going off-topic, I will emphasize that I do think the media could do a better job with the issues you mention.

That said, if you have a concern about the bed bug problem (which I assume is what brought you here), then IMHO it is a good thing when the news reports on bed bugs in a workplace. Bed bugs are spreading like wildfire in NYC, some people are being exposed to them at work because lots of people have them at home. People from all walks of life.

The media is only just starting to get that message across.

It also is of interest to the public that two people have now been reported as having lost their jobs for allegedly bringing bed bugs to work. [In contrast, while you can also take roaches to work, since they love to travel in cardboard or paper bags, but I doubt anyone has lost their job for that, nor for giving everyone at work the ‘flu.] That’s big news, as far as I am concerned. And people who don’t read this website, but read the mainstream media, need to know about it.

(That doesn’t take away from what you’re saying, and I am not trying to argue, but just simply to get that point across–it doesn’t have to be one or the other, the news you mention or bed bug news.)

11 nobugsonme May 4, 2008 at 5:31 pm

prayforamiracle,

Unfortunately, your roommate sounds like she does not understand how easily bed bugs can be carried from place to place. Education is key.

That said, something else to consider is how easily a boss could (a) find out a worker has bed bugs, (b) find out the workplace has bed bugs, and (c) jump to the conclusion that the worker brought them in.

Some might look into the home (as appears to be the case at Fox). Others might not. Bed bugs travel in all directions.

12 Cody June 2, 2008 at 8:53 pm

I think it’s great the media is reporting on this. It’s not that this isn’t important – it seems like your complaint is that they don’t report on OTHER things that are important. They’re both important.

I feel sorry for you NYC’s, to think you can’t even sit on the train or brush up against someone because you’re worried about bed bugs! I swear if I started checking train seats here (Australia) people would think I was mad.

On the other hand, whoever works out how to repel these guys with a spray is going to make a fortune. It’s almost worth quitting work and looking for a venture capitalist.

As for the employee being sacked, seeing as I’ve just found my home is infested, and looking back through photos to realise they have been there for about 6 months, I’ve been freaking out wondering if I’ve taken them to work.

However after looking around work, I can’t find any anywhere, and I haven’t seen moulted skins or anything else like that around. So I think I’m safe. Plus I’ve been checking all my clothes really carefully since I found out and am waiting for an exterminator to come, this week I hope.

Should someone be fired over it? Man, that’s hard to say. If you’re living in this really poorly maintained house, there are a couple ethical defenses:
– They have no idea they have bed bugs, or they know they have bugs but don’t know what they are.
– They are trying to get of them themselves but don’t realise they need a PCO.
– They know they need a PCO to do it but they are really poor and can’t afford it.
– They’ve gotten a PCO but it didn’t work.

Then again you get b*stards like my housemate, who I’ve told have bed bugs, and I’ve told how easily they spread, but refuses to look under his bed for them and just says “they don’t bite me” so I don’t have them. If he transfers it to his work, then he is responsible, because I emphasise the risks over and over and he ignores them. (I’m trying to move out, the guy is such a waste of human space anyway).

So there seems to be a difference there, to me, about how much knowledge you have, and what you do about it. There’s a gray area I’m not sure about though.

13 Cody June 2, 2008 at 9:00 pm

Wait, this is important. Should people notify their work that they have bed bugs now, even if there’s no indication they have transferred them to work?

I’d be ostracized! They wouldn’t understand! If I do see one I’ll say straight away, and I’m looking at everything really closely. But unless I see one I’m keeping my mouth shut.

I already feel like a societal outcast as it is.

14 nobugsonme June 3, 2008 at 8:21 pm

Cody,

The problem with letting the workplace know there are bed bugs at home, is that *if* bed bugs eventually turn up at work, the employer may assume you’re the one who brought them in.

In some cases this may be a fair assumption. They do have to come from somewhere. (In the Fox case, the person blamed was said to have the worst case at home that the PCO had seen in 25 years).

But in other cases, it isn’t a fair assumption to assume that the one person who has identified/detected/admitted to having bed bugs at home is necessarily (a) the only one with bed bugs at home, and (b) the source by which they came to the workplace.

People also get bed bugs from work. And many people do not detect their bed bugs for a long time.

So I’d be cautious about notifying your workplace, but I’d also be cautious about spreading bed bugs (as I am sure you are). Sadly, many people aren’t as responsible.

15 susan August 26, 2008 at 8:26 pm

I know for a fact that I took bed bugs to work, because they bite me a lot when I’m there. I have them at home. It’s only a matter of time before other people get bit, and I think some have, so I am debating whether to tell my boss and just quit now.
What should I do?

16 nobugsonme August 26, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Hi Susan,

Most people do not feel bed bugs biting when they are actually biting, though many have reported bite-like sensations when there are no bed bugs present. (We think this may be part of the allergic reaction to bed bug bites.)

The test is– if you LOOK when you feel the bites, is anything there?

It is possible you took bed bugs to work, but it’s also possible you’re feeling aftereffects of bites from home.

No one can tell you what to do, but personally I would ask why you’d want to quit?

If you verify there are bed bugs at work (and not just biting sensations), then tell your boss. They can get the area treated.

And if you haven’t got them at work, take precautions to avoid bringing them in. There’s a FAQ about how to avoid spreading bed bugs in our travel FAQs which is relevant here.

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