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Trader Joe’s Worker Terrified of Contracting Coronavirus; Says Workers Are Not Being Protected

The Trader Joe’s store at 90-30 Metropolitan Ave. on Saturday (Photo: Queens Post)

March 21, 2020 By Michael Dorgan

An employee at the Trader Joe’s store in Forest Hills says that the company is failing to keep its workers safe in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The worker, who is a crewmember at the 90-30 Metropolitan Ave. store and didn’t want his name disclosed for publication, reached out to the Queens Post saying he is worried about his safety and so are many of his fellow employees.

The employee alleges that they don’t have gloves to protect them from the coronavirus; there is not enough hand sanitizer; and social distancing procedures are being disregarded. Furthermore, employees don’t have masks.

“Trader Joe’s is putting my life and my family’s life at risk,” the employee claims. “They are putting profits over lives.”

A spokesperson for Trader Joe’s disputes these claims and said that its stores–including the Forest Hills location–are taking all the necessary steps to keep employees safe.

  • The disgruntled worker said that crew workers were not allowed to wear gloves until Friday—and only after making complaints to management.
  • Furthermore, he said, the employees are only allowed to use the gloves at the cash register and not on the floor. Employees who wear them on the floor are being told to take them off.

“There’s a lot of discontent going on. People are scared that they might [contract the virus] and be bringing this home to their families,” he said.

“Some of my co-workers tell me when they go home, they strip down completely, immediately take a shower before they even say hello to their spouse or their kids because they are terrified they will get sick.”

A worker at Trader Joe’s in Forest Hills Saturday without gloves (Photo: Queens Post)

The employee also alleges that the correct social distancing policies are not being enforced. Management limits how many customers come into the store but the number still exceeds safety levels, the employee said.

He says that they are allowing too many people in the store at one time.

Customers have been “on top of each other” on the floor and queuing up as normal with no social distancing, according to the employee.

The line outside Trader Joe’s on Saturday. The company is limiting the number of customers allowed in the store at any one time to ensure social distancing (Queens Post)

Staff who were concerned about their safety and complained to management were “scolded” and he was “chastised” for speaking out, the employee said.

Management told staff they were free to stop working at the store – although they would not be paid if they chose this option.

The employee said that some older staff members have taken a leave of absence in order to avoid contracting the virus.

The employee said that ordinarily the company is very good to work for but he has been shocked by their lackluster approach throughout the coronavirus spread.

A Trader Joe’s spokesperson said the company is concerned about all of its staff and customers safety and questioned this claims.

The store, according to a company spokesperson, has hand sanitizer and wipes to keep employees safe.

“I called the store and there is hand sanitizer and there are wipes [for employees],” said Kenya Friend-Daniel, National Director of Public Relations at Trader Joe’s, who is based in Monrovia, Calif. “They told me they have it.”

She said sometimes sanitizer supply gets low and they have sent out a directive as to the proper guidelines for how workers should wash their hands.

A worker at Trader Joe’s Saturday without gloves (Photo: Queens Post)

Friend-Daniel said that employees have always been allowed to wear gloves but that washing hands is more important than wearing gloves in any case.

“Health officials have told us personally that gloves do not prevent the spread, it’s best not to wear gloves it’s best to wash hands,” she said.

“We have told crew members this guidance, that this is based on what we’re hearing from the CDC, however, if you want to wear gloves you can wear gloves,” she said.

“There is no mandate or ban that no one can wear gloves,” she said.

The company says it has also been enforcing the social distancing requirements and that the company has sent each store the requirements.

“We tell all our stores to manage how many people are in the store … so that people can stay safe and so that people can practice social distancing,” she said.

Friend-Daniel said the company has been complimented for keeping its employees and stores safe.

“We’ve actually gotten calls from customers at the store who’ve commended our crew members and told us what a great job everyone was doing and how safe they felt at the store,” Friend-Daniel said.

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18 Comments

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Crewmember

I, too, work at this store. To all those who are disgruntled employers and those that are terrified to shop here, how ’bout we just close the store? How ’bout that? No money for the former and no food for the latter. Happy now?

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Anon557

I can tell who you are by the use of language in your comment. Stop being a servile, self-seeking sycophant. You know that a fellow crew member has a brother who is in the hospital with Covid-19. You know there are two fellow crew members who might have it, are self-quarantining because they can’t get tested, whose concerns were met with a derisive eye-roll and disbelief by management. Did you know that one of those crew members had a relative who died from this novel coronavirus? These are real people with real concerns and fears who have been directly affected by this pandemic. Our colleague who interviewed for this article isn’t “disgruntled”; he or she is worried and concerned for the slow move to action. You know social distancing is not being practiced. You know that customers form groups of five to ten or more people in busier areas of the store and are only inches apart from each. You know that management does nothing to break up these groups nor enforces social distancing. You know that customers hover, reach over, and talk right into our faces with no regard. Really gunning for that Mate position, aren’tcha?

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Andrea Buffkin

Mountain View, CA store. The workers are not 6 feet apart at the cash registers and neither are the customers at the registers. The employees are not allowed to wear masks and if they do they are told they have to go home!!! This is not okay! If doctors need masks, then so do they. I don’t want them breathing on my groceries!!! You can do better than the CDC guidelines. If you don’t you will lose employees and customers! How does that help your bottom line???

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GoGoJoe

What are gloves going to do? If someone touches their eyes, nose or mouth with gloves on it is the same as without gloves. If gloves are involved you will need to change them after each customer interaction, clerks would have to sanitize their registers almost every 10-15mins, wipe down conveyor belts, etc. If business continues as usual they would need to hire individuals who are simply sanitizers, following customers around and sanitizing everything people touch. This is an economic and logistical nightmare without very little realistic methods or mitigating contagion.

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Jessica Peñuela

Not true I’ve been going grocery shopping there and each time I go there on the weekends though there is a wait I always rest assured that I’ll be able to shop while abiding to social distancing. The manger is always on the sales floor helping customers find what they need I forget his name he’s the funnyHispanic guy that looks like Vince Vaughn. I love shopping at Trader Joe’s and will continue to go to this store as it’s the one closest to my home.

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Wilson molina

That’s Absurd !! I go there on a weekly bases for groceries , and during this epidemic I have to say as frustrating as it is I had to wait to get in due to minimal occupancy, infact once I entered i have witnessed most staff with gloves and Evan the nice Latino manager I believe named Pablo, reminding us to please keep a distance ! Have to say sounds like a angry employee whose disappointed their considered a essential worker

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Leo

The comments from corporate seem like whitewashing, and that no one has actually been to the store to investigate. It’s like a mock of things we’ve heard in the movies. Gloss over the actual job to investigate because it’s not convenient.

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Midtowngirl

Thank you to Trader Joe staff! You work for my favorite store. You have never failed to be polite and kind to me. Best customer service. You bring up very good points particularly about crowd control which Tj’s should better manage. Some people are clueless. Unfortunately I don’t think I will see you until this is over due to social distancing issue. P.S you need a bigger store/open another one in Queen’s

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Gina Santonas

All employees should be protected. I love Trader Joes but this is very disappointing.

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Yolanda Vega

I am concerned for the employees and families. I was at the store on Monday, March 23rd and although they were limiting the number of customers in the store, I did observe that hardly any staff had gloves on.

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TJ Customer

Forest Hills Post- world choice: replace disgruntled with concerned.

There are too many crowds there for any of the employees to be safe.

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C

Need to speak to the store manager, not the company rep. They have no clue what’s going on inside each individual franchise.

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Unknown

I currently work at this store as well and I definitely have to agree with this coworker, I thought I was the only one that was feeling this way but I’m happy to see I’m not. Gloves are definitely not allowed off of register if seen managers ensure that you take it off. Don’t take me wrong Trader Joe’s is an amazing place to work at however these pass few days I have felt differently towards it. The more I use Whatever hand sanitizers is left the less I smell it I honestly think at this point I’m using water on my hand rather than hand sanitizer. If we use the cleaning products too often to clean around us, managers ask us to be aware and not to clean that much I find this so outrageous because we have so much people come in and out within an hour we should be cleaning our surroundings for both our and the customers safety. If we change gloves we are asked to hold on to it for 4 hours of being on register, I’m not sure as to how a person can keep one pair of gloves for four hours straight. While I was at work on Thursday I literally had customers leaning over me to grab products, honestly the store has limited people from coming in together however there’s still a large amount of people coming in. Every time I try to clean around me I see the managers staring at me and I feel so uncomfortable but honestly I’m just trying to be safe and keep everyone around me as safe as possible. My family is scared for me as well because they are aware that I am unable to keep my self safe at work. I wish I can do something about this situation while I am scared for myself I am much more scared for the elderly working here throughout this time. Please everyone be safe.

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Trader No's

Trader Joe’s is a petri dish of nastiness on a good day… I could not imagine what it is like now or that filthy parking lot.

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Anon557

I also work at this store and I can tell you that the public relations director for Trader Joe’s doesn’t see what the crew member working in the aisles sees and is simply going by the word of the Captain (store manager) and Mates (assistant managers) who have more stake and investment in the phony so-called positive work environment they themselves do not foster and giddily chortle at the profits being made because of this crisis. This is not being disgruntled, this is how many crew members feel and felt even before this crisis hit the world. I can tell you that the practice of social distancing in this store is not being properly enforced. Customers and crew tend to cluster in sections of the store and can literally be touching shoulder to shoulder while other sections can be free of people. We are touching product and surfaces on the work floor without gloves and aren’t even allowed to wear them when replacing full garbage bags. Cashiers are standing right next to each other instead of manning every other register. I believe that management should make frequent announcements about maintaining social distancing and allow crew to break up any clusters that form. They should also ask that shopping be done swiftly and with intention so they are in and out. Customers should bag their own groceries and refrain from licking their fingers to separate cash. The crew should be provided with masks and instructions of their use by the World Health Organization website printed and posted in visible areas. Many of us are now getting seasonal allergies and are coughing and sneezing and are fearful that we may get this novel coronavirus and spread it while being asymptomatic during its incubation period. Many of us have family with compromised health and passing this on can kill them. Desperate times require temporary reasonable measures that may go against the company’s culture norms but will help ensure the safety of both employee and customers and our respective friends and families.

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