Q: Should your employer provide hand sanitizer, disinfectant products and take affirmative measures to provide regular cleaning and sanitation throughout the store during the COVID-19 outbreak?
A: All companies are providing increased sanitization measures such as frequent handwashing, making available disinfectant products, including sanitation wipes, and conducting store sanitation and cleaning procedures throughout the store. All stores should be operating on limited hours to provide proper time to sanitize and clean the store. If any of these products or procedures is not being followed please contact your union representative and it will be immediately brought to the attention of the company.
Q: Are employees allowed to wear facial masks while working on the job and are the masks effective for those that do not have a virus?
A: Most companies are allowing the wearing of facial masks but are not providing these products at this time. There is a chronic shortage of masks and health care providers are first priority for receiving protective facial masks. Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises that masks are effective for preventing those infected with a virus from spreading the virus to others rather than for use as a protective measure. If you are to use a mask the one recommended by the CDC is N95 masks which block 95% of fine particles. The link below provides information on masks.
The CDC has the following response to facial masks if you are not sick:
“If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.”
Q: Are employees allowed to wear protective gloves while working on the job and are the gloves effective for those that do not have a virus?
A: The CDC has made no recommendation that the general public should wear disposable gloves to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, the agency does recommend that people wear disposable gloves when caring for someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, particularly when handling their laundry and when coming into contact with bodily fluids.
Q: What if customers do not follow social distancing guidelines? What can the union do to help?
A: If customers are not practicing social distancing when interacting with grocery store employees you should inform them to please keep a safe distance, which is recommended to be 6 feet. Do not hesitate to inform customers to keep a safe distance, it is your health and wellbeing at stake.
A spot check by UFCW 5 has indicated that the companies are taking pro-active measures to protect employees during COVID-19. This includes markings on the floor in the checkstand areas that encourage six feet between customers, providing sanitizing products including hand sanitizers, limiting open hours to sanitize the store and only opening every other checkstand. Many stores are also installing Plexiglas in the checkstands to minimize direct exposure to customers.
Q: If an employee feels that CDC guidelines designed to protect employees from possible COVID-19 exposure are not being followed, what can employees do to protect themselves?
A: Bring it to the store manager’s attention if you have a concern and if they fail to act call your union representative immediately. UFCW 5 will contact designated company representatives who handle employee concerns and have the companies act in protecting your health and safety.
Q: If I should self-quarantine to reduce risk of exposure to others will I still be compensated?
A: Most companies have agreed to compensate employees for their weekly average earnings for up to two weeks if recommended by a medical provider to self-quarantine.
Q: If you believe a coworker is ill on the job what should you do?
A: Encourage the employee to go home to protect their health and that of their co-workers and public. Notify management if they remain at work and you tell management you believe they are sick and should go home.
Q: Since grocery store employees are much more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 am I required to work?
A: As the Nation comes together to slow the spread of COVID-19, on March 16th, the President issued updated Coronavirus Guidance for America. This guidance states that:
“If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”
Grocery workers fall into the category as a critical infrastructure industry and, as such, have a responsibility to report for work. However, management can understand some employees may have an overriding concern and anxiety to work in such a risky environment and may respect your decision not to work.
Q: Am I required to work overtime if asked to do so?
A: Employers may require you to work overtime unless extenuating circumstances make it difficult for you to do so. Nonetheless, many employers will respect your desire not to work overtime if you choose not to do so.
Q: Can I miss work to care for my children since schools are closed?
A: Employers are cooperating with employees regarding childcare scheduling conflicts since all schools are closed until May 1st or until the beginning of the next school year. The companies are coordinating with employees to rearrange work schedules to better assist in their child care needs. Inform your employer in advance, if possible, if it is necessary to be off work for child care supervision.
Q: Will I receive unemployment benefits if I must stay home to care for a child because schools are closed?
A: California has extended unemployment benefits to employees out of work because they must care for a child whose school or day care is closed due to COVID-19.
Q: If I am laid off from work or must stay home to care for a child and are eligible for unemployment benefits how much will I receive:
A: Employees on State unemployment benefits whose unemployment (or partial unemployment) is caused by a COVID-19 related reason will be eligible to receive an additional $600 per week from the federal government on top of their state unemployment benefits (up to 100% wage replacement) for up to four months. In California the maximum unemployment benefit is $450 per week. Adding the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) money, the maximum combined state and federal benefit of unemployment will be up to $1050 per week for the first four months. California has waived the seven day waiting period for benefits. The CARES Act indicates that new benefits will be retroactive to January 27th.
Q: Can I use vacation pay or floating holidays for childcare?
A: UFCW 5 has been informed by most employers that they will accommodate employee requests to schedule vacation or floating holidays in order to care for children. However, this would not be necessary since employees that must stay home to care for a child due to school closings or the closing of child care facilities would be eligible for unemployment benefits – see above.
Q: Am I eligible for sick pay if I am quarantined or 65 or over and could be at risk due to health concerns?
A: You may use paid sick leave if you are quarantined or 65 or older and an at risk individual upon the direction of a health care professional.