Earlier this week, Lakeland-based grocer giant Publix announced that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19. Now, an online petition, titled “Give Publix Employees Hazard Pay,” is circulating, and it calls for a major change in the company’s pay policy.
“During this national emergency, Publix is making record profit,” wrote the creator of the campaign, whose name is simply written as K P. “Publix should pay all employees time and a half to compensate for any health-related expenses that may come up during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The petition called for 500 signatures, and had 407 at the time of writing this.
Grocery stores have been deemed as “essential” places that must remain open under a “stay-at-home” order—which goes into effect for Hillsborough County on March 27—meaning that Publix employees cannot stay home unless they “exhibit cold symptoms,” according to Maria Brous, a Publix communication director. If that happens, they cannot return to work for 72 hours, said Brous.
However, a recent New York Times article said that Publix has an estimated 89,000 employees without paid sick leave. Creative Loafing Tampa Bay recently spoke with Publix employees, who say they’ve been sent home for wearing face masks because they might “scare away customers.”
One employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was personally told by a manager not to wear gloves on the floor. Some people are scared, said the employee, adding that many associates (of all ages) have since quit over coronavirus concerns.
Publix employees have, however, been compensated with $50 gift cards.
On Wednesday, Publix announced that it would install plexiglass barriers at registers, customer service desks and pharmacies. The company added that these barriers will take up to two weeks to install at company locations.
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