Walmart ‘reviewing’ COVID-related complaints at Watertown store as state, county investigate

WWNY Walmart ‘reviewing’ COVID-related complaints at Watertown store as state, county investigate

TOWN OF WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - More COVID-related allegations against Watertown’s Walmart are coming to light and now a local official says the state is investigating.

Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chair Scott Gray says employees at Watertown’s Walmart are coming to the county with claims the store is making them break COVID-19 public health orders.

Gray says one of the complaints is Walmart having employees who’ve tested positive for the virus come to work.

“If true, that’s egregious. That is a very serious claim,” he said.

Earlier this week, we ran a story of other allegations against the retailer the county is also investigating.

Gray says employees are allegedly being told not to get tested for COVID and are told to come to work even if they’ve been placed in quarantine.

“These are all actions, if they prove to be true, that are against public health orders. So, there’s serious violations,” he said.

Gray says the county has already contacted Walmart about the claims the state’s Department of Labor has done the same.

He says the county wants a response in around 10 days, but the state wants answers sooner.

“In one instance, 24 hours to respond and, in 9 other instances, they gave them 72 hours,” said Gray.

A Walmart spokesperson says the company is looking into the allegations and is preparing a response to the county.

It also lists ways the company has addressed employee safety since the pandemic started, including a policy calling for up to 2 weeks pay for workers who test positive for COVID, or are put in quarantine.

A press person with the Department of Labor says the office can’t confirm or deny complaints about a specific business. Workers with complaints can file them on the DOL’s COVID portal.

The following is Walmart’s full statement:

Jefferson County has made us aware of several concerns submitted to their offices, which we are reviewing. We will prepare a response to the County Attorney in accordance with his request.

From the beginning of the pandemic, we have implemented a host of protocols across all of our stores, including in Watertown, to keep our associates, customers and facilities as safe as possible. As an essential business, these measures have involved working cooperatively with Jefferson County health leaders and:

  • Introducing a COVID-19 emergency leave policy to accommodate associates who are unable or uncomfortable coming to work.
  • Requiring associate health screenings and temperature checks prior to the beginning of the workday.
  • Hiring almost 180 new and temporary associates at the Watertown location to meet the demands of customer service during the pandemic and to cover shifts for associates taking leave.
  • Providing all associates with masks and protective gloves.
  • Sneeze guards installed at registers.
  • Social distancing signage placed throughout the store.
  • Requiring that all associates and customers wear masks or face coverings while inside the building.

Everything we are doing is for the well-being of our associates and community members, and we will continue working with the County, following directives from local health departments.

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