- Dollar General will provide workers who opt to get inoculated against COVID-19 with paid time off to compensate them for the time away from work they might need to receive a vaccination, but will not compel its workforce to get vaccinated, the company announced Wednesday. The discount retailer is making similar arrangements for its distribution and transportation workforces.
- Frontline hourly associates will receive a payment equivalent to four hours of regular pay after getting vaccinated, while salaried workers will receive additional store labor hours to make up for the time away from the store they need to visit a vaccination site.
- Dollar General’s effort to encourage its employees to receive COVID-19 inoculations follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to give grocery workers priority access to shots as the nation grapples with a shortage of vaccines.
The onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic last year put an immediate spotlight on the risk of infection facing people who work in public environments, prompting urgent calls for retail employees to be categorized as essential workers to help them get personal protective equipment and COVID-19 tests.
But as vaccines against the disease slowly roll out across the United States, retailers appear to be trying to balance their efforts to pave the way for workers to get inoculated without appearing to be infringing on the rights of workers who opt not to get a shot.
In the press release on its financial incentives to workers who get vaccinated, Dollar General said it wants “to be on the forefront of facilitating our employees’ ability to receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they so choose,” but won’t go further than that. “We understand the decision to receive the COVID-19 vaccination is a personal choice, and although we are encouraging employees to take it, we are not requiring them to do so,” the company said.
Kroger, which is playing a key role in the national effort to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, is reportedly taking a similar approach. The company is encouraging its workers to get inoculated against the disease but has not indicated that it will require the vaccination as a condition of employment, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Employers can generally require workers to show proof that they have received a COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in December.
Also last month, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union called on grocers to provide a paid holiday to workers to allow them to get vaccinated. The union also demanded that governors "guarantee free access to the vaccine" for essential workers.
In announcing that it will provide payments to workers who get inoculations, Dollar General made a point of noting that, unlike many supermarkets, its stores do not have pharmacies or other facilities that could enable it to vaccinate workers on site. “We do not want our employees to have to choose between receiving a vaccine or coming to work, so we are working to remove barriers” that could serve as a disincentive," the retailer said.