- Two Kroger employees have tested positive for COVID-19, the retailer said in a press statement. Kroger said both employees — a King Soopers associate in Colorado and a Fred Meyer associate in Washington state — are receiving medical care.
- Along with the announcement, Kroger said it's putting an emergency leave policy in place. The policy gives employees diagnosed with COVID-19 and associates placed under mandatory quarantine standard pay for up to 14 days. If associates are unable to come back to work after two weeks, they are eligible to receive additional paid time off via short-term disability coverage.
- In addition to its paid time off policy, Kroger is allowing associates who can and need to work from home the ability to do so. The grocer said it is taking “proactive measures” in the event that more associates need to work remotely.
After consulting with authorities and following cleaning protocol, Kroger said it will keep the two stores where the affected employees work open.
"Upon learning of these cases, we partnered with state and local health experts, followed all sanitation and cleaning procedures, communicated with and supported our store teams, and with the support of the state governments, the stores remain open," the retailer stated.
On a broader scale, Kroger is ramping up its hiring efforts to fill store and distribution-level positions. In case more associates are diagnosed or need to be quarantined, the retailer will need more workers to keep its doors open. Kroger says it has immediate positions available at its retail locations, manufacturing plants and distribution centers. Candidates could start working within a few days of applying.
For its existing associates already affected by COVID-19, Kroger has made its Helping Hands fund, which provides money to workers experiencing an emergency, available to associates that have financial troubles during the outbreak.
In order to sanitize and restock its stores, Kroger announced it will also change its hours of operation, which vary by retail brand and location.
Walmart has also announced reduced hours at its stores and Neighborhood Markets. And like Kroger, the retailer also had an associate test positive for COVID-19. The case, at a store in Cynthia, Kentucky, resulted in the company deploying an emergency employee leave program similar to Kroger’s.
At Walmart, if workers are quarantined they will receive two weeks paid time off, and if an associate is diagnosed with the virus, they will automatically be paid for two weeks. After two weeks, if associates still can’t return to work, they can receive payment for up to 26 weeks. The retailer is also working with the federal government to set up drive-thru coronavirus testing points at some of its store locations. The tests are intended to protect the stores' patrons as well as associates.
As Walmart, Kroger and Trader Joe's enact emergency paid leave policies, Whole Foods has come under fire for its response to the coronavirus. Last week, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey sent out memo to employees suggesting healthy associates donate paid-time-off to co-workers who get sick. The memo, first reported by Vice, sparked condemnation over social media. On Friday, the company issued a release saying it would provide 14-days pay for any team member diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in quarantine. It also said additional funds would come available through its Team Member Emergency Fund.