JPMorgan traders complain that bank doesn’t inform all staff of coronavirus cases at headquarters

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Some JPMorgan Chase traders are upset that they only learned about a coronavirus case in their building last week from press reports, CNBC has learned.

When the bank discovered that an employee on the fifth floor of its Manhattan headquarters had caught Covid-19, it quickly told those who had contact with the worker to quarantine for two weeks. It also fired off a memo on Sept. 13 to workers on that floor letting them know about the case.

But it didn’t tell workers elsewhere in its 47-floor tower at 383 Madison Ave about the illness, and that irked some of the bank’s traders, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

“Why did I have to read about this in Bloomberg?” said one trader who declined to be identified criticizing his or her employer, referring to an article on the matter.

The episode highlights a tension on Wall Street as firms summon their workers back to offices. Banks say they are taking every precaution to lower the risks of transmission and that informing all occupants of massive buildings about a case will only alarm people. But some employees, already on edge about returning to the workplace, expect to be told if anyone in their building comes down with Covid-19.

JPMorgan’s global markets head Troy Rohrbaugh was asked about the matter during a virtual town hall meeting last Thursday, said the people. His response: The bank’s policy is to inform only those who had been on the floor or who may have had contact with a sick person.

Goldman Sachs also discloses coronavirus cases only to workers who had meetings with or who worked on the same floor as somebody who has fallen ill, according to a person with knowledge of the bank’s policy. Last week, the bank also discovered that at least one employee at its downtown headquarters had the virus. Spokespeople for JPMorgan and Goldman declined to comment.

On its website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that if a case is confirmed at a business, “employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.” The CDC defines exposure as being within 6 feet of someone with the coronavirus for 15 minutes or more.

In the early days of the pandemic, JPMorgan and Goldman more widely disseminated messages about employees falling ill.

That changed when they began welcoming workers back in recent weeks. Now, using mobile apps or websites, employees must attest that they are healthy before showing up to the office. Cases are still low in New York, and there is no evidence that Covid-19 has been transmitted within a bank recently.

JPMorgan has told workers that if they aren’t informed of a coronavirus case, they have nothing to worry about. The bank requires employees to wear masks, limits elevator occupants at 383 Madison to five people and creates one-way traffic in common areas to limit potential transmission.

“Our communication protocols go beyond just notifying those who are in close contact,” a JPMorgan manager said. “Because we notify a wide group of employees out of precaution, word of our cases tend to find their way to the press despite a relatively limited amount of cases.”

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