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Tipsheet

One of America’s Largest Retailers Will End Paid Emergency Leave for Unvaccinated Employees

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Retail company Kroger will eliminate paid emergency leave for employees who are not vaccinated against the Wuhan coronavirus, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The company will also reportedly require some unvaccinated employees on the company’s health care plan to pay a $50 monthly surcharge. 

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Kroger, which is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, employs 465,000 workers. While the company implemented tighter COVID-19 restrictions for unvaccinated employees, the WSJ notes that employees were never outright required to get vaccinated. Rather, vaccination was highly encouraged.

“We have been navigating the COVID-19 pandemic for almost two years and, in line with our values, the safety of our associates and customers has remained our top priority,” a spokesperson for Kroger said in a statement to Washington, D.C.-based publication The Hill. “To accomplish this, we created and amended several workplace policies at the onset of the pandemic to support our associates during immense uncertainty.”

Both the monthly $50 surcharge and the repeal of two weeks of paid emergency leave for unvaccinated employees who contract the virus will go into effect Jan. 1. 

“A Kroger spokeswoman said the company is modifying politics to encourage safe behaviors as it prepares to navigate the next phase of the pandemic, and that the changes are designed to create a healthier workplace and workforce,” WSJ reported. “She said the company considered feedback from employees and customers to guide its policies, and that Kroger will continue to encourage sick employees to stay home and seek support of a physician if they contrct the coronavirus. Unvaccinated employees can take paid time off or apply for unpaid leave, she said. Kroger has been motivating staffers to get vaccinated with a $100 payment.”

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Employees with approved medical and religious exemptions are unaffected by the company’s new policies, the WSJ claims, adding that “it continues to prepare and develop responses to OSHA’s Covid-19 vaccine requirement.”

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