Walmart Inc. is now requiring that its approximately 1.5 million U.S. employees wear masks or other face coverings while on the job.
The move, effective April 20, applies to Walmart and Sam’s Club employees in stores, clubs, distribution and fulfillment centers as well as corporate offices. The retail giant said it is also encouraging shoppers to wear some type of face covering.
The move comes as certain states and cities, including New York, are mandating that residents wear masks in public settings. The Centers for Disease Control now recommends wearing face coverings in public settings, including grocery stores, to help curb the spread of the virus.
“We have evolved our policy on face coverings from optional to mandatory as public health guidance has shifted,” John Furner, president and CEO, Walmart U.S. and Kath McLay, president and CEO, Sam’s Club, wrote in a memo. “We hope this step will promote safety and consistency across all of our facilities and be of comfort to our customers and members.”
According to the memo, Walmart employees are free to use their own face covering “as long as it meets certain guidelines” or they use one provided by the company.
Walmart also announced that it is extending its emergency leave policy through the end of May.
The decision to make face masks mandatory is the latest move by Walmart to protect the safety of its employees and customers while also meeting surging demand. Last month, the retailer announced it would start rolling out temperature checks of employees and make facial masks available to employees who wanted them.