Kroger tells employees to return extra COVID-19 emergency pay — then retracts demand

click to enlarge Kroger tells employees to return extra COVID-19 emergency pay — then retracts demand
PR Newswire

In the ongoing saga of Kroger and how it's paying its employees — deemed essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis — comes a new chapter.

In a widely shared letter posted on social media, the Kroger Payroll Department asked an employee to pay them back $461.60 of "overpaid" COVID-19 Emergency Pay.

The emergency pay is part of what Kroger calls "its ongoing investment in associate and customer safety." It provides "paid time off to associates most directly affected by the virus or experiencing related symptoms," says the Kroger newsroom and as confirmed in a statement to MarketWatch.

The company responded to the Twitter post saying it won't ask employees to refund them any extra payments from their COVID-19 emergency leave.

"This was an unfortunate payroll accounting error," says the Tweet. "We’ve since instructed our payroll department to directly inform the small number of associates affected by the recent overpayments of COVID-19 Emergency Leave pay that we will not seek repayment."

And this is just the latest in a series of PR snafus regarding how the company is treating its frontline workers. Kroger recently caught ire from the public, workers, and union groups for discontinuing its "Hero Bonus" program.

Since then, Kroger has agreed to pay its full-time workers a $400 bonus and its part-time workers a $200 bonus as "Thank You Pay" for working during the coronavirus pandemic.

The $130 million deal follows the $2 per hour "Hero Bonus" the company started paying in late March with an initial planned duration through April 18. That modest bonus was extended to May 2, with a new expiration date of May 17. The cutoff date prompted a backlash from some workers who pleaded for the company to extend the bonus, citing dangerous working conditions as the virus continues to spread in communities.

The Thank You Pay bonus will be paid out in two installments on May 30 and June 18.

Kroger has also listed many ways it's trying to keep its workers safe, including installing Plexiglas partitions at checkout counters; six-foot, social-distance markers on the floor, and having workers wear masks and gloves.

This post was original published by our sister paper Cincinnati CityBeat.

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