With a growing number of COVID-19 cases, Walmart workers are questioning the safety of their workplaces and taking dramatic steps to protect themselves. Now, employees have created a new system allowing them to anonymously report unsafe working conditions in Walmart stores. Employees have also created a mapping system that will allow workers to report colleagues who have contracted COVID-19. Workers feel the rising number of employee deaths points to negligence on the company's part. One Michigan Walmart employee stated, "We can't wait for half-measures. We're taking matters into our own hands to get the information that we deserve to know." Concerns exist among other retailers including Amazon, Target, Instacart, and Whole Foods whose workers are planning 'sickouts' — not showing up for work — or walkouts in protest of unsafe working conditions.
Walmart states that worker safety is a top priority and is conducting health screening, temperature checks, and providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to all associates. In addition, as many other national retailers have done, the company is working to control the spread of the virus in its stores by installing sneeze guards at registers, limiting the number of customers in the store, and following best practice cleaning standards. In addition, to create an incentive for sick workers to stay home, Walmart is offering emergency paid leave to those impacted by COVID-19.
Walmart has been accused of not enforcing social distancing in its stores and not enforcing 6-foot minimum contact with workers and customers. If the proper protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19 are not enforced among major retailers, not only are the employees at risk, but the customers will be at risk as well. How companies manage their workforces and protect their customers will have an impact on brand image and reputation. The ability to attract and retain a quality workforce can be challenged by not adhering to best practices during this global pandemic.
In these unprecedented times, companies, employees, and customers all have important roles to play in limiting the spread of the virus.