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Milestone layoff forces workers to compromise, compete

Leah Tallchief, psychology graduate student, is a supervisor for the chat department at Milestone.Photo credit: Christine Lee

Chico’s Milestone, a technology company, laid off an unknown amount of workers in December 2013 due to a lack of phone calls for tech support.

The company recruited several Chico State students during last semester’s career fair. Milestone wouldn’t reveal how many people were laid off but at least 315 people are still employed.

“There are about 300 people for phone support, 15 people for chat support and everybody answers emails,” said Leah Tallchief, psychology graduate student and supervisor for Milestone’s chat department.

Workers answer questions about tech support, refunds and ordering issues regarding the company’s clients’ products. Milestone’s clients are eBay, Google and Facebook.

After the layoff, people started volunteering time off in order for everybody to get enough work hours, said Tallchief.

“People get three-day weekends depending on which day they choose,” she said.

A survey was sent out to employees asking how they want to grow within the company and those whose answers were ranked the highest were put on a list.

Workers are getting more training on client products in order to prove themselves productive, she said. The company measures productiveness by having employees log in codes which correspond to tasks throughout the day.

Because she’s an exempt employee, Tallchief can work overtime if she wants to, but regular employees are not allowed to, she said. She wouldn’t disclose her salary amount but said that she works 40-60 hours per week.

Tallchief said she’s not afraid of getting laid off because of her current position as supervisor at Milestone.

“There’s always a possibility but I’ve tried to make myself as indispensable as possible,” she said. “I’ve taken a lot of different roles.”

Brett Sparrey, a Chico State graduate and applications support employee at Milestone, said if he was laid off, he’d learn to let it go.

He was recruited by Milestone during Chico State’s career fair last year.

“If I do my job to my best ability, I shouldn’t get laid off,” said Sparrey. “I’m a valuable employee. If I get laid off, it’s out of my control at that point.”

He said he’s not volunteering time off like other workers because the department he works in now is a new extension to Milestone, just two weeks old. Sparrey used to work in the hardware and management department but he has new responsibilities.

The new department gave him a different set of skills, and there was enough work for him, he said.

Milestone’s hiring companies are working with their laid-off employees to find jobs, Tallchief said.

The majority of international calls come from India, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Milestone is located next to the Chico Municipal Airport. The buildings used to belong to Build, another major employer that laid off several workers around the same time as Milestone.

Christine Lee can be reached at [email protected] or @leechris017 on Twitter.

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