Eleven states and the District of Columbia warned Walmart on Tuesday that they believed the company would not protect workers and customers during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, a dozen Attorney General said they were “concerned that Walmart had failed to take reasonable steps” to prevent the virus from spreading in its shops.
They cited complaints from workers who said they were not informed about possible exposure to colleagues to the virus or felt the pressure “even if they were sick or symptomatic”
“Our offices continue to receive reports of overcrowded business and a general failure by Walmart to take measures to ensure that customers and employees are within two meters of each other and to monitor compliance with those measures,” wrote the Attorney General.
They also said they had received reports from the public that Walmart had not adequately restructured its business, “even after learning of confirmed COVID-19 cases among its workforce.”
The group urged Walmart to commit to enforcing social detachment in its stores and to take special steps if COVID-19 was confirmed or likely to occur. The letter was headed by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
Walmart said in a statement sent to HuffPost late Tuesday that measures have been taken to ensure the safety of workers and customers during the pandemic, including requiring facewear for all employees, performing pre-shift temperature tests, limiting the Opening times and the installation of plexiglass signs in shops.
“While it may be impossible to trace the source of an infection, we see that the health of our employees tends to affect the health of the entire country,” the company said. “That’s why we work with local health authorities and take proactive steps to ensure the safety of our employees and customers.”
The attorney general also urged the giant retailer to voluntarily meet the minimum paid vacation requirements set out in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This law, passed by Congress in March, provides paid vacation mandates for many companies, but excludes large employers like Walmart.
Walmart said that in addition to normal sick days, employees are eligible for coronavirus-specific vacation if they test positive for COVID-19 or if they are quarantined by medical personnel. However, the directive does not apply specifically to workers who may be immunodeficient or who have recently had contact with someone who was ill. Several employees recently told HuffPost that they were still feeling pressured to get to work despite fear of getting sick.
Cindy Murray, a Walmart representative for the United for Respect advocacy group, applauded the attorney general for sending the letter and said in a statement that she “confirmed what Walmart officials said from day one of the pandemic: Walmart does not prioritize our health , the health of our families or our customers. “
Like other grocers and many retailers, Walmart has remained open throughout the pandemic as an essential store selling necessities, albeit at a reduced capacity. Several of its stores had to close temporarily due to coronavirus outbreaks, including a location in Worcester, Massachusetts, where over 80 employees tested positive.
Nonetheless, the pandemic lock on Walmart has proven to be a selling point when the Americans hit the shops and crouched. The company posted the fastest sales growth in nearly two decades in the last quarter.
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