NASHVILLE (RNS) – Christian personal finance guru Dave Ramsey hopes his staff spread peace and goodwill over the Christmas season.
They can also spread COVID-19.
Ramsey Solutions, the company founded by best-selling author and radio host, plans to host “Boots & BBQ,” a big in-person Christmas party, for hundreds of staff at the company’s headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, despite an outbreak of more than 50 cases at company headquarters through mid-November.
An invitation, sent to the company’s 800 employees in a newsletter obtained by RNS, states that no children are allowed at the Christmas party and that employees are limited to one guest each. No mention is made of the obligation to wear masks.
At staff meetings and on his radio show, Ramsey has 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 from complications from the virus. There have been more than 428,000 cases of COVID-19 in the state.
Ramsey Solutions does not require masks in its offices – Dave Ramsey himself has been a vocal opponent of wearing masks and other COVID restrictions. In one clip on his daily radio show, posted to YouTube in November, Ramsey denounced what he called “totalitarian” government restrictions and mask warrants, saying he wanted to “launch a crusade” against them.
The Dave Ramsey Show is known for its host’s folkloric financial advice, balanced by a moralistic disregard for debt. One of the highlights of the show is the call from a listener presenting a “debt free cry” to mark their release from consumer debt using Ramsey’s methods.
As of March, Ramsey Solutions has had around 100 cases of COVID-19 among its employees, according to a recording of a mid-November staff call obtained by Religion News Service.
Of that number, there were around 50 cases as of mid-November, Ramsey Solutions executive director of human resources, Armando Lopez, told staff during the Nov. 13 appeal.
“There are 50 people somewhere in the neighborhood who are either positive or going back to work,” Lopez said.
Ramsey Solutions did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Lopez or other executives.
During the November appeal, Lopez acknowledged that the whole country – including the Williamson County suburb where Ramsey Solutions is located – was seeing COVID-19 numbers rise. “Williamson County has seen a huge increase in COVID cases. And U.S. too. Ramsey Solutions has seen a huge spike, ”said Lopez.
The human resources director also said he was concerned the numbers were higher, admitting the company did not have an accurate system to track COVID-19 cases.
Despite the number of positive cases, Lopez told staff in November that there were no plans to allow remote working. The company allowed staff to work from home during the first weeks of the pandemic, but has required them to return to company headquarters since May.
Lopez said Ramsey Solutions management decided it was not “a home based employer.”
“Can you be a work-from-home employer for a short time?” He said during the November 13 appeal. “We have proven for five weeks that it works. Can we? Yes. Are we? No.”
This message was echoed in a company newsletter sent out on November 20, which reported 32 positive cases among staff and 17 other staff awaiting testing. The bulletin encouraged staff to report any COVID-19 test results to human resources, but maintained the company would continue to operate from headquarters.
“We know many of you have felt pressure from family and friends, some of whom think you are ‘weird’ to continue working,” the bulletin said.
“Fortunately, we work in a place that used to be called bizarre,” the newsletter continued, then pointed to Ramsey Solutions’ “counter-cultural approach to business”.
“And now we’re weird to be following common sense and using logic to provide for our families and clients,” according to the newsletter.
During the call with staff in mid-November, Lopez said business leaders were unable to respond to requests for exemptions to work from home and that employees were the best people to judge the right thing to do for their health. Some might decide they must choose to quit their jobs, he said.
“We know we’re going to lose people because of this,” he said. “It’s hard and hard for me to say that.”
The company advised workers to take social distance if possible and stay home if they feel sick. In staff newsletters, the company encouraged testing for COVID-19, but also shared articles claiming the threat of COVID-19 has been exaggerated by the media.
“We’re all adults here,” Luke Lefevre, creative director at Ramsey, told employees in the Nov. 20 newsletter. “If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. Give yourself a healthy space in relation to others. Use the stairs if you can. Don’t be careless.
The company also continued to organize major events during the pandemic, including its “EntreLeadership Summit“in July. This event was to take place in Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fla., near Orlando, but Ramsey moved the event to his Franklin offices after the Gaylord informed the company of significant COVID-19 restrictions, including mask checks, according to a lawsuit filed by Ramsey Solutions.
The summit was part of a series of “high-end experiences” organized by Ramsey, attracting thousands of business owners and other attendees, “each of whom is spending between $ 5,000 and $ 15,000 to attend, hotel included “, according to the amended complaint. in the costume.
COVID-19 restrictions at the hotel, which did not include any buffet or other self-service food as well as limited use of the pool or other amenities, made the conference untenable, Ramsey Solutions said in the statement. complaint.
In court documents, Ramsey Solutions claimed the change of location cost the company $ 10 million in lost revenue.
At a staff meeting in July after the summit, Ramsey accused hotel management of breaking their word to him and the company. The mask requirement in particular angered Ramsey. He ridiculed the idea that hotel staff would impose a mask requirement on guests.
“As you well know, we don’t need masks, but if someone wants to wear a mask, we don’t mind,” according to a recording of the meeting obtained by RNS. “Anyone can choose what you want to do. This is America – a voluntary thing, you choose what you want to do. But we’re not going to ask someone to pay $ 10,000 for a ticket to have about $ 8 an hour at Marriott, which makes it hard for them to wear a mask. “
At a staff meeting after Thanksgiving, Ramsey continued his criticism of those ruled by the “fear” of COVID-19 and “panicking” over the pandemic.
“They’re scared, they’re worried about COVID, they’re scared to death whether or not they’re responding to all the social cues about fear and masks and temperature checks,” he said on a recording of the meeting obtained by RNS.
In contrast, he said, staff at Ramsey Solutions would spread Christmas cheer and cheer over the holidays – as well as courage, which he said was contagious.
The business, Ramsey said, would not be governed by fear.
“Fear is not of the spirit,” he told his employees at the meeting, rallying them to step up their performance during the holiday season. “It’s not on the list. And so, even though sometimes I’m scared, I don’t make decisions – and I don’t let my behaviors be – fearful, unless it’s about stepping away from a car that is driving. Come to me.