CalPERS Staff in Fury Over Covid Negligence, Regulation-Breaking Risking Staff, Seniors, and Day-Care Children; CalPERS Lies About Cases and Lack of Compliance

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A Covid outbreak at the CalPERS’ headquarters buildings in Sacramento has become so severe that the SEIU Local 1000 District Labor Council 781 President Hoang-Van Nguyen, who represents staff in the three-building compound, has published an Emergency Telework Petition on Action Network, which we’ve embedded below.

As you can see, Nguyen charges CalPERS with violating Department of Industrial Relations in not providing her with case counts and close contact data as required. As we’ll discuss below, the likely reason for CalPERS violating employee notification requirements is that they are also violating OSHA and Cal-OSHA rules by not engaging in contact tracing.

Note that Nguyen also states that that five Divisions1 have Covid cases, which qualifies as a major outbreak, and strongly implies that CalPERS is also violating regulatory requirements by not evaluating whether to stop some or all in-office activities.

Note that CalPERS employees have informed us of additional violations, which CalPERS has denied. As we’ll show below, CalPERS has also misrepresented how many cases it has, with with management reporting to a retiree group more than 50% more that CalPERS admitted to to in its communication with us.

Oh, and with am outbreak in full force, CalPERS still has cafeteria, a daycare facility and a fitness room open on its campus, so it isn’t just endangering workers but children and toddlers….and even seniors!

As we’ll see soon, sources indicate that CalPERS is not engaging in required contact tracing but merely notifying staffers in the work area with a positive case that they may have been exposed and need to take protective measures, like masking up. So they aren’t looking into, let alone making proper notifications, of exposures via its cafeteria, its meeting rooms, the fitness room, bathrooms, or usual workplace interactions, like someone visiting a colleague who works in another part of the campus to discuss a current project.

A CalPERS employee last week who has a track record of high accuracy, sent me the following e-mail:

I have first-hand knowledge that CalPERS HQ has been experiencing COVID outbreaks in the office, and in my opinion, grossly mismanaging them. I do not know the total count, but I would imagine it is significant.

When there are COVID outbreaks, management is only notifying staff that work directly in the same area as those reporting the infection, and instructing them to work from home for the next two weeks. But obviously the infected individuals have frequented communal areas – bathrooms, conference rooms, break rooms, the cafeteria, and fitness center – and on a daily basis coming into contact with people from all over the complex.

Areas of concern:

1. Management is not notifying all staff of these outbreaks – despite the fact – that everyone theoretically could come into contact with everyone else. There is ZERO contact tracing going on to my knowledge.

2. Management is not implementing any “deep cleans” or other sanitization measures to control infection spread.

3. Management is not mandating testing for everyone coming into the office nor taking temperatures.

4. Throughout the complex, there are doors everywhere that have to be opened by hand.

5. Management continues to mandate an office-centric work environment and has taken aggressive measures to punish individuals (that have minimally violated the remote work policy) by revoking their work-at-home privileges.

This message was far more restrained than comments on Reddit:

One labor leader said that there were 90 cases at CalPERS at the three buildings on the main campus alone as of early last week. A CalPERS employee on the Reddit thread guesstimated that there were between 50 and 70 cases in the same time frame. At a May 27 retiree event, a CalPERS spokescritter said that there had been 62 cases since April 1 at CalPERS. Participants at that event took that figure in context to refer only to Covid cases at the main headquarters, as in not including CalPERS’ satellite offices.

Needless to say, it’s hard to reconcile CalPERS’ admission on May 27 with the response Brad Pacheco, CalPERS Head of Communications and Stakeholder Relations, on the evening of May 23, unless there had been an over 30% increase in the number of cases in a mere three days. That would confirm infections were out of control:

CalPERS has had 47 positive COVID cases since April 1, 2022 among our three buildings. The 90 number you cited is incorrect. We are following all state and federal health procedures. Case numbers and the number of exposure notifications sent out to team members are provided to team members monthly on our intranet as well as the guidelines, on site testing procedures and resources.

Whether the case count is correct is up for grabs. But it’s flat out false to assert that CalPERS is complying with all applicable “procedures” when they obviously aren’t following regulations.

The big and obvious fail is that CalPERS is not engaging in contact tracing. It’s simply notifying workers who regularly sit close to the infected individual, when the standard in anyone who has been exposed for 15 minutes or more, within 6 feet, in a 24 hour period, per The idea that CalPERS would not bother looking into interactions in the Investment Office (INVO in the Reddit clips above) and would simply deem that a Covid positive case on one floor couldn’t possibly have infected someone in the same department on another floor, let alone co-workers they met for lunch or coffee or saw while working out or in a meeting.

CalPERS is required to have pre-mapped high risk, high contact areas, but their lackadaisical conduct suggests they’ve done nothing of the sort.2 Further confirmation comes from a follow-up e-mail:

1) The management of exposure notifications has been really poor…and I know specifically of an instance where no notifications had gone out until it was far too late and a large group of people had already tested positive. It’s a day late and a dollar short. What good is the mask if you’ve already been in an environment with lots of people testing positive?

2) Also, when the exposure notices go out – they instruct everyone to immediately mask. Not everyone has a mask on hand and masks aren’t available all over the complex…so what is one to do?

So get this…CalPERS, which in its better days was a $500 billion pension fund, is too cheap to have a box of N95s on every floor.

Remember that CalPERS has engaged in another confirmed regulatory violation, that of failing to inform employee representatives of positive cases and close contacts. Of course, if you’re not doing contact tracing, faking it via using only immediate workplace neighbors would likely produce suspiciously low number, strongly pointing to a contract tracing lapse.

CalPERS is also required to provide Covid data, most importantly positive cases, to the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) weekly. We’ve submitted a Public Records Act request for those documents, so we’ll know in due course whether CalPERS was complying therw or not.

Those of you who are very attentive may recall the mention of risk to seniors at the very top. How could that be true?

Seniors from a retirement center across the street from CalPERS headquarters regularly come to the cafeteria to eat!

Gee, ya think people who were infected but didn’t know it yet were all skipping having lunches and coffees with colleagues? That sure seems to be CalPERS default position. Any prudent manager would worry about potentially infecting cafeteria staff and anyone else who happened to be nearby….which includes not just the seniors who regularly visit the cafeteria, but vendors, consultants, and workmen.

One can anticipate that CalPERS will fall back on legalistic excuses, that it had no obligation to inform visiting members of the general public of Covid risk on its facilities. That argument seems like quite a stretch in light of Cal-OSHA requirements:

(D) In accordance with subsection (c)(3)(B), communicate information about COVID-19 hazards and the employer’s COVID-19 policies and procedures to employees and to other employers, persons, and entities within or in contact with the employer’s workplace.

And don’t get me started on the day care center:

So we have yet more evidence that CalPERS’ priority is not financial results, or serving beneficiaries, or even pampering staff, but promoting “culture” which is the Cult of Marcie Frost. And it isn’t just wrecking investment returns and morale, it’s now putting health at risk. As epidemiologist Ignacio summed it up:

Only one word: irresponsible. And a symptom of bad management or ideologically driven management: “Covid is over no matter how many cases we have.”


1 I’m at a loss with the mention of five divisions, since the CalPERS site indicates it has four divisions and five offices. I suspect most CalPERS staff would regard the “Investment Office” as a division. If so, that would mean all the divisions are affecting, begging the question of how many of the remaining smaller “offices” are also afflicted.

2 From Cal-OSHA:

The employer shall conduct a workplace-specific identification of all interactions, areas, activities, processes, equipment, and materials that could potentially expose employees to COVID-19 hazards. Employers shall treat all persons, regardless of symptoms or negative COVID-19 test results, as potentially infectious.
1. This shall include identification of places and times when people may congregate or come in contact with one another, regardless of whether employees are performing an assigned work task or not, for instance during meetings or trainings and including in and around entrances, bathrooms, hallways, aisles, walkways, elevators, break or eating areas, cool-down areas, and waiting areas.
2. This shall include an evaluation of employees’ potential workplace exposure to all persons at the workplace or who may enter the workplace, including coworkers, employees of other entities, members of the public, customers or clients, an independent contractors. Employers shall consider how employees and other persons enter, leave, and travel through the workplace, in addition to addressing stationary work.

00 CalPERS Emergency Telework Petition
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  1. The Rev Kev

    ‘CalPERS has risen from being a risk to merely to the financial health of beneficiaries and taxpayers to being a bona fide health hazard.’

    Yeah, that’s kinda the plan. Look, CalPERS has an enormous problem because it has a massive shortfall in funds in paying out all those pensioners and one figure said it was an estimated $150 billion – and that was four years ago. And it doesn’t help that they took a $300 million hit pulling out of all their positions in Russia. So right now they are paying retirement benefits to more than 2 million members and health benefits for 1.5 million members and their families each year. That is a lot of people. So, what to do. (puts tip of pinky to side of mouth)

    CalPERS has a plan and I believe that it is called Operation Vector. No, not Victor – Vector. So this is how it goes. The first step is to infect as many people as possible at CalPERS HQ as possible. Get the number up high enough so that it cannot be eliminated but you have wave after wave of infections over time. Let ‘er rip. That is the first phase. Next step is to hold a series of seminars for these pensioners and lure them in with free goodies. Pensioners love free stuff. And to be held in a hall. With no ventilation. And social distancing impossible. With finger-foods available afterwards. And lots of meet and greets with CalPERS staff there *cough, cough*. And invitees coming from postcodes that have a high number of CalPERS pensioners living there. Then let nature do ts work.

    Pretty soon the number of claimants start dropping – as do the claimants themselves. If it goes on long enough, CalPERS could find itself back in the black – with a huge bonus for the CalPERS Board of course. Could there be blowback? Of course there can. This Coronavirus is just not limited to the lower ranks after all. It is an equal opportunity virus. Luckily Henry Jones is gone as he is 77 years old but take a look at the images of the present Board members. All I am seeing is a lot of “pre-existing conditions” and when you get down to it, Marcie Frost is no spring chicken herself at the age of 59-

    But as every cloud has a silver-lining, such is the case here for members of the CaLPERS Board. If things start to get too sticky, they can always turn around and retire due to ‘long-Covid’ and of course they will retire with full benefits. Even better, when police investigators start calling on them in retirement to find out what they know, all they have to say is ‘I’m sorry, Officer. All this long-Covid has made my mind fuzzy and has shot my memory to pieces. I can’t remember a thing. Do you want to see my medical certificate?’

  2. .human

    Case numbers and the number of exposure notifications sent out to team members are provided to team members monthly on our intranet as well as the guidelines, on site testing procedures and resources

    Monthly. MONTHLY. Good gawd, what do the PMC do at work?

  3. Roger Blakely

    Who cares about contact tracing and notification? If you are in an indoor public space, you are inhaling BA.2.12.1. Everyone needs to be wearing respirators in indoor public spaces. All grocery store employees need to be wearing respirators and goggles.

    What is happening in the UK now that nonpharmaceutical interventions have been removed? People are calling in sick. Unless people are wearing respirators, they are going to get sick and stay sick.

    1. mimi

      Who cares about cases? If people have actual symptoms, they need to stay home. If they don’t have symptoms, they aren’t sick. The PCR test was created to scare people by detecting who knows what. Papayas have tested positive for Covid, as has CocaCola.

      Nobody needs respirators either. You can’t protect yourself from microbes with that stuff. And wearing goggles is ridiculous. Goggles are for people who want to avoid getting cobra venom in their eyes.

      You’re right about contact tracing. It doesn’t work for a respiratory virus either.

        1. mimi

          Not satire.

          My original reply to you has been sent to moderator hell, so that’s all I will say.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Are you really this clueless? Asymptomatic cases spread Covid.

        And you most assuredly can protect yourself with a respirator. A non-fitted N95 provides 2.5 hours of protection v. exposure to an infected person, as in in your proximity.

        And contact tracing does work. It did in South Korea before they abandoned it, it does in China.

        Making Shit Up is a violation of our written site Policies. I trust you will find your happiness elsewhere on the Internet.

      2. c_heale

        Wearing masks and goggles is all we have. Since our representatives don’t seem to be concerned about our wellbeing at all.

        There is a proven reduction in the probability of getting this airborne virus by wearing a mask. The virus can also infect us through our eyes, so goggles are probably also useful.

      3. Late Introvert

        “don’t have symptoms, they aren’t sick”

        If this wasn’t so frighteningly wrong I would say thanks for the laugh.

  4. Tom Stone

    How quintessentially CalPers.
    Marcie’s gotta Marcie, a little collateral damage to the peons is no big deal.

  5. jt

    I’m old enough to remember the glory days of diversity promotions based in part on *successful* BRIC underwriting analysis. The ones where IOs downplayed the difficulty of quantifying country risk premiums. But hey when you’ve gotta hit a 7% bogey because politics and politics is what gets you promoted then that CFA designation at the end of your name on the business card becomes moot.

    The place has always been a clown show and will always be a clown show.

    1. Roger Blakely

      I don’t even blame Marcie on Marcie. Who were the crooks running the place before the Great Financial Crisis? Marcie is only there because the rats swam away from the sinking ship in 2008.

  6. chuck roast

    Perhaps an anti-corruption czar can be of assistance here. His name is Robert Lafreniere. I am up in Montreal visiting my sister, and pick up the Montreal Gazette to read that Monsieur Lafreniere has committed serious corruption. After I stopped laughing I had a discussion about piece with my sister. We determined that Lafeniere would have top-notch qualifications for corrupt activities since he is the senior official in the “Unite Permanente Anti-corruption”. He is the expert! I’m almost certain that Marcie has her eye on this guy already.

  7. haywood

    I’m interested to know more about how various unions have dealt with covid in different industries, especially over the last 6 months during the Biden admin’s vax and relax infection free-for-all.

    Any recommendations for further reading or any anecdotes?

  8. CalPERS employee

    I work at CalPERS and really appreciate that you published this (and every other CalPERS piece). Unbelievably, almost no one there wears masks and you’d never know we’re in a pandemic. At best, some people seem to think that washing their hands will keep them safe. I really want to sign that petition, but I want to leave CalPERS and need a good reference. Any thoughts on whether signing it would be a bad move? Thank you.

  9. Ana

    I live across the street from the CalPERS buildings. I can verify that seniors from my over 55 building (Pioneer Towers) walk across the street to the CalPERS cafeteria for breakfast and lunch because the cost of the food is subsidized (very long story about the subsidies which my own state department handled – let me know if you want details). Tucked into the CalPERS building on the back side is a Subway, a coffee shop now closed, and there is always a food truck parked on R Street behind it by 11 pm weekdays.

    The “seniors getting infected” probably is about us. So far though we have had only a few cases in our building because so many of us are completely paranoid, wear masks all the time and interact with as few people as possible.

    CalPERS staff are staying home in droves. I park in their parking building at 5th and R Streets. It took me over a year of begging and being on lists to get a slot because the building was full. When Covid hit, the building emptied out and became partly full late last year. Its back to being largely empty. Sometimes I’m the only car on my floor of the building.

    Ana in Sacramento

    1. THe Rev Kev

      Hey, you take care to keep safe, OK? Don’t let you and your friend’s health be dependent on the actions of those idiots across the road.

  10. Taco_Tuesday

    Thank you for reporting on this! Apparently, this piece scared the heck out of other state agencies. My friend, who works at a different state agency, suddenly got all these notices today about tracing. They said this is the first time the department has reacted this way. I told them about this piece, and they responded, “no wonder.”

    I’m not surprised that CalPERS is treating its employees this way. Black mold was discovered in the north building a few years ago. OSHA even investigated because so many employees filed anonymous complaints. CalPERS never took the employee complaints seriously. Employees became ill, some seriously ill, but the agency treated them as whiners.

    Funny thing is the black mold was discovered in the compliance office! True story. I’m sure you could still find the reports, if CalPERS retained them. There was a lot of commotion about this situation, but the department quickly swept it under the rug.

    CalPERS used to be an employer of choice, but overtime its vanity and extreme focus on looking good, versus excellent performance, backfired. We’ve seen very capable internals get passed over for promotions, even after serving many months, sometimes more than a year, in interim roles. Others are placed in interim roles and promoted for the wrong reasons. We all know who they are because they talk a lot, love networking too, but have no track record to back them up. Unfortunately, due to the high compensation associated with these roles, these highly paid non-performers will hold on for dear life, to the detriment of the organization.

    I hope you continue to report on this because making employees go back to the office “for culture” is just stupid. CalPERS needs to put its energy in the things that really matter, such as our members, and not worry that an employee is working from home in their gym clothes or eating a sandwich when they are not on break.

    Imagine if they rented out that gorgeous building space and invested that money into our members instead of spending time fighting with employees and unions about something as petty as needing an employee to be at their desk.

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