On March 15, Popular Information reported that Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the United States, was maintaining sick leave policies that incentivize workers to show up ill. Many of Kroger's 453,000 employees do not receive paid sick leave.
Kroger created a special paid leave policy for COVID-19. But workers were only eligible if they tested positive for COVID-19 or were formally placed into quarantine. With a shortage of tests and governments advising people to self-quarantine, few people qualified.
On Tuesday, Kroger announced no changes to its sick leave policy but said it would give all its workers a $25 credit for groceries. A top Kroger executive sent a message to workers saying he hoped the $25 credit showed workers "how much you mean" to the company.
Kroger also attacked this newsletter, saying Popular Information's reporting "only serves to divide people at a time when we should all be pulling together to manage this public health crisis."
On Wednesday, Popular Information reported that Publix, a large supermarket chain that operates in the South, had a much more expansive paid sick leave policy for COVID-19. The Publix policy allows workers to qualify for paid sick leave if they were "experiencing symptoms of COVID-19" or "[r]ecommended by a health care provider or regulatory/government body to self-quarantine due to potential risk to public health."
On Saturday morning, Kroger announced it was significantly expanding its paid sick leave policy for COVID-19. Its policy largely mirrors that of Publix. Kroger employees will now qualify for two weeks of paid sick leave if they have symptoms or place themselves in self-isolation.
Kroger's plan differs from Publix in that it requires the symptoms or decision to self-isolate to be "verified by an appropriate health care professional." But such verification should be easier to obtain than a COVID-19 test or formal quarantine order.
Kroger is also giving its full-time workers a bonus of $300 and its part-time workers $150.
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Kroger's new policy is not a substitute for real paid sick leave. The pandemic will eventually end, and workers will be back where they started. Even now, many Kroger workers will not get paid if they stay home for an illness other than COVID-19.
Congress has required employers with more than 50 or less than 500 employees to provide 14 days of paid sick leave during the pandemic. But large employers like Kroger and Amazon, which is maintaining a very restrictive COVID-19 policy, are exempt.
Photo credit: Dwight Burdette via Wikimedia Commons