Walmart to take employees’ temperatures as part of stepped up safety measures

Marianne Wilson
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Walmart Inc. is taking additional steps to ensure the safety of its workers and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, from taking the temperature of workers to one-way store aisles.

The retail giant will start taking the temperatures of its employees as they report to work in stores, warehouse clubs, distribution centers and other facilities, as well as asking them some basic health screening questions.  Infrared thermometers are being sent to all locations, a process that could take up to three weeks.

“Any associate with a temperature of 100.0 degrees will be paid for reporting to work and asked to return home and seek medical treatment if necessary,” explained John Furner, president & CEO, Walmart U.S. and Kath McLay, president & CEO, Sam’s Club in a joint statement.  “The associate will not be able to return to work until they are fever-free for at least three days.”

The temperature-taking will start first at distribution centers and fulfillment centers and in COVID-19 hotspots, such as New York and Louisiana, Walmart’s executive VP of corporate affairs Dan Bartlett said on a media call.

Walmart will also start to make its store aisles one-way in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom to help customers stay six feet away from one another, Bartlett said. The company is also considering other crowd-management strategies.

In addition, Walmart has ordered protective equipment, including face masks and gloves, for its workers, with the masks expected to arrive in one to two weeks. (The masks are of high quality but not N95 respirators – which should be reserved for at-risk healthcare workers, the company said.) 

“While the CDC and other health officials do not recommend masks or gloves for healthy people who don't ordinarily use them for their jobs, we will make them available — as supplies permit — for associates who want to wear them,” Furner and McLay stated. “We encourage anyone who would like to wear a mask or gloves at work to ask their supervisor for them, while keeping in mind that it is still possible to spread germs while wearing them.”

The company is also reminding employees to keep six feet apart from others, when possible, to maintain social distancing.

The new measures outlined by Walmart follow an array of other store policies that the chain has put in place since the COVID-19 outbreak, including the installation of plexiglass sneeze guards at store checkouts and pharmacies and social distancing floor decals.

On the employee compensation side, Walmart also is giving special bonuses to recognize employees’ work during the crisis, awarding $300 for full-time hourly associates and $150 to part-time hourly associates. It is also accelerating payout of scheduled quarterly bonuses. The company has also added an emergency leave policy that pays employees for up to two weeks if they have to quarantine or become sick with the coronavirus.