If you venture into a Wegmans store during the coronavirus pandemic, you may start to see employees wearing masks and gloves.
In the wake of the crisis, Wegmans has adopted a new policy allowing workers to use the protective gear if it makes them feel safer.
Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart wrote to Wegmans inquiring about the company's policies after she said she heard from dozens of Wegmans employees and their family members, who claim they were told they could not wear personal protective equipment at work.
"None of them are willing to speak publicly," said Barnhart, a Democrat who represents the 21st Legislative District. "They are so worried about being able to keep their jobs. And a lot of them really like Wegmans, and they like working for Wegmans, but they are scared, as a lot of us are in this crisis."
A spokesperson for Wegmans said the company has been following the Centers for Disease Control's recommendations for deep cleaning, sanitation, and social distancing. Last week, acrylic panels were installed at cash registers.
But Barnhart's concerns go beyond protective gear and cleaning. She said some Wegmans employees also told her they were not allowed to work remotely, even though their jobs could accommodate that.
A company spokesperson told WXXI News that some employees are working remotely, but she did not know how many. The spokesperson said the off-site workers include those who normally work in the corporate offices or in stores.
In a March 19 letter to Wegmans, Barnhart urged the company to consider providing regular pay to employees, such as senior citizens and those with underlying health conditions, who may choose to stay home because they are more vulnerable to the virus.
"Retail workers are on the front lines for us," Barnhart said. "They are putting themselves at risk. They deserve to have protection if they want it."
Wegmans told WXXI News that the company has created a COVID-19 disability paid sick leave policy. Wegmans did not specify who is eligible for the plan, how much they would be paid, or for how long.
The company said employees have the flexibility of using their vacation time however they choose. Wegmans also recently announced a $2 an hour pay raise for employees during the months of March and April.