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Brokerage employees upset by limited remote-work options despite COVID outbreak

TQL upgraded virtual technology recently after allegedly firing around 700 employees working remotely in mid-March because of server issues.

TQL headquarters in Cincinnati remains open despite multiple employees testing positive for COVID-19 in the past three weeks. Photo: TQL

At least 18 employees who work at Total Quality Logistics’ (TQL) corporate headquarters near Cincinnati have tested positive for COVID-19 since late June, including six new cases as of Friday.

However, current employees say they are upset that TQL, the second-largest freight brokerage in the U.S. with nearly 5,000 employees in 57 offices across 26 states, is not allowing employees to work remotely even though the company recently updated its virtual network.

Chris Brown, chief human resources and legal officer of TQL, told workers that the COVID-19-positive employees work on the second and third floors of the company’s headquarters, according to emails obtained by FreightWaves. 

As of press time, Brown had not responded to a FreightWaves’ email or telephone call seeking comment as to why employees don’t have the option of working remotely unless they worked in close proximity to or had prolonged contact — around 15 minutes — with an employee who had tested positive for COVID-19. 

Some said they are allowed to work remotely if they or a family member at home has a weakened immune system, but that others who have expressed concerns about possibly contracting the highly contagious virus have been asked to provide a doctor’s note to human resources if they want to work remotely.

“Those who work remotely feel pressure almost daily to return,” said one employee, who works at one of TQL’s 57 offices and spoke on condition of anonymity. “I do not know how many are still working from home, but it is very few.”

Brown said in his emails that employees should “follow the mask, sanitation and social distancing guidelines.” However, some employees, who didn’t want to be named for fear of retaliation, told FreightWaves that brokers at all of TQL’s offices work in close quarters and share desks and equipment, such as telephones and keyboards, with the night shift, which makes it nearly impossible to ensure that proper sanitary protocols are followed. 

At least 18 employees at TQL’s headquarters in Cincinnati have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks.

TQL employees confirmed to FreightWaves that masks are “required” in the office, but say it’s not being enforced at some of the locations because brokers and other employees say it’s hard to talk on the phone while wearing a mask when they are expected to make up to 100 cold calls per day.

Tom Millikin, corporate communications manager of TQL, told FreightWaves early Friday he didn’t have any information related to a COVID-19 outbreak at the company’s headquarters and said he “would look into it.”

However, as of press time late Friday, Millikin had not responded to FreightWaves’ requests for comment.

Clermont County, Ohio, Health Department confirms spike in COVID-19 cases

As of Friday, nearly 4.1 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the U.S., resulting in more than 144,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

In Ohio, there have been more than 74,000 confirmed cases, including more than 9,400 in the past seven days.

Keith Robinson, communications coordinator of the Clermont County Health Department, confirmed there has been a recent spike in COVID cases. 

“Our numbers have increased over the last two to three weeks, going back a month or so, so we are definitely seeing an increase in the number of cases in our county,” Robinson told FreightWaves. 

TQL headquarters is located in Clermont County, Ohio.

TQL comes under fire over handling of COVID-19 concerns

Current employees told FreightWaves they fear retaliation if they express their concerns to human resources about possibly working from home to avoid possible exposure to the coronavirus.

That’s because Ken Oaks, chief executive and co-founder of Cincinnati-based TQL, has faced harsh criticism from current and former employees about the company’s handling of “as many as 700 employees” who were let go over a three-day period in mid-March amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Seemingly overnight, some former TQL employees claim they became “casualties of the coronavirus,” saying the company “put profits over people.”

Some told FreightWaves at the time that workers were fired because the company simply didn’t have the technological bandwidth to support all of its employees working remotely.

TQL has denied suggestions that the firings were linked to server capacity issues in March.

“No other internal or external factors played a part in these decisions,” Millikin told FreightWaves around the time of the dismissals.

Sources familiar with the matter allege the mass firings were “related to issues with setting up remote access” using Citrix, the company’s virtual network, and were not the result of employee “underperformance issues,” as Oaks and Millikin told FreightWaves at the time.

Over the past four months, some TQL employees told FreightWaves, upgrades were made to Citrix that addressed the issue of the remote system crashing, which allegedly led to the mass firing.

TQL’s Ken Oaks issues return to work order

However, Oaks announced in late May that employees were expected to return to the office on June 8, ahead of a large new-hire class that started on June 15. 

In Oaks’ email to employees, obtained by FreightWaves, he said the decision was based on some of the “feedback” he received from TQL employees.

“This will ensure all systems and workstation needs are met and allow us to adjust to life back in the office and be fully operational so the onboarding experience meets the high standards we pride ourselves on,” Oaks said in the email. “The commitment to developing our people and honoring our commitment to teamwork is a huge part of what makes this company great.”

If you are a current or former TQL employee with a story to share, please send an email here. Your name will not be used in any follow-up article without your permission.

Read more articles by FreightWaves’ Clarissa Hawes.

Judge delays trial date in TQL overtime class-action lawsuit
TQL: ‘Bully on the block’?
TQL delays start date of nearly 200 new hires, sources say


  1. Kevin

    TQL lives in this lady’s head. Do you know how many people wish they had a job and an office to go to and earn a paycheck? While the author writes hit pieces from her basement, it sounds like TQL continues to hire and continues to provide job opportunities during a difficult time. The logistics industry is classified as essential. I don’t see any hit pieces on Kroger or Walmart for having their employees come to work..

    1. FreightBro2020

      Pretty sure FreightWaves is the most legit freight industry news resource available.

      That’s why the WSJ partnered with them…but what do I know.

      Oh I do know that your 87%+ turnover rate hasn’t changed, so this “great opportunity” is a way for some people to get by for a few months with minimal effort making below livable wages in most major cities.

      If you haven’t found hit pieces on other companies making their employees go to work, try using a search engine called “Google”. You can find it at

  2. GMam

    Does TQL care about what this will do to them over time? This non caring attitude toward employees will be a scar on TQL for a long time.

  3. Johnathan

    Shocker – freight waves continues to post negative articles about companies that won’t buy their sonar platform because they don’t need it. Really it is a sad and desperate business practice.

      1. Nena S

        I have no idea why anyone works for that company. We have a NO TQL policy here at our trucking company. We simply will not work with them. Dishonest as they come.

    1. FreightBro2020

      I’ve seen you on here deflecting before, have any relevant response to the content of the article or do they really pay you to leave half-crocked responses? They could be using their marketing budget 10x better if you ask me!

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Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected]