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.”
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.
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.
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.