SACRAMENTO, June 2, 2020– California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 12 attorneys general in a letter calling on Walmart to step up efforts to protect workers and the public during COVID-19. Walmart’s current limited paid leave policies, and the pressure that workers feel to continue working even if they are ill or symptomatic, hampers the ability of states and local authorities to protect public health. With high rates of infection already prompting the closure of several stores, it is time for Walmart to step up and take action to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, putting its workers and our communities at risk.
“If we want to save lives and protect our economy, we’re all going to have to do our part,” said Attorney General Becerra. “That includes big corporations like Walmart. It’s past time for paid leave policies to reflect the seriousness of this crisis — the health of our workers and the American public depends on it. We’re calling on Walmart to stand with us, so that we can confront this crisis together.”
Walmart’s current paid leave policies fall woefully short of the basic standards set by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Currently, the company only offers half pay for paid leave to employees who are confirmed to be COVID-19 positive — upping the pressure to keep working even when sick or symptomatic. In addition, there have been reports of overcrowded stores and a general failure by Walmart to implement measures to ensure that customers and employees maintain a distance of six feet from each other. This is on top of reports of failures by Walmart to adequately sanitize its stores, even after learning of confirmed COVID-19 cases in its workforce — with some employees and customers reporting that they are not being informed of their potential exposure to people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 at Walmart stores.
In the letter, the coalition calls on Walmart to take a number of steps, including:
- At a minimum, offer paid leave protections in line with what is required for smaller employers under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act;
- Provide non-medical masks for employees;
- Install shields or other barriers at registers and check-out areas to physically separate cashiers and customers, and use every other register;
- Assign an employee to wipe down carts and handbaskets after each use;
- Reduce the number of customers allowed in stores as may be necessary to ensure that workers and customers can remain six feet away from each other at all times; and
- Inform state and local health departments in signatory states about the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in each store.
During this economic and public health crisis, Attorney General Becerra remains committed to protecting the rights of workers in California and across the country. Last month, Attorney General Becerra and the City Attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco sued Uber and Lyft for allegedly misclassifying drivers as independent contractors, robbing them of critical workplace protections like paid sick leave and unemployment insurance. He also slammed the President’s reckless executive order forcing meat and poultry processing plant employees to work without adequate protections during COVID-19. In March, Attorney General Becerra called on Amazon and Whole Foods to step up efforts to protect workers by providing adequate paid sick leave. More information on the California Department of Justice’s efforts to protect the public during COVID-19 is available on the Attorney General’s website at https://oag.ca.gov/consumers/COVID-19.
In sending the letter, Attorney General Becerra joins the Attorneys General of Illinois, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the letter is available here.