July 20, 2020
REI Staff Critical of Bungled Response to Covid-19 Cases in Some Stores
REI closed its stores in March as shelter-in-place orders began phasing in across the nation. As the curve appeared flattened later in the summer, REI began re-opening stores, with most open by the first week of July. The company instituted a policy. If any employee tested positive for Covid-19, any fellow employee who’d worked near person who tested positive would be quarantined away from work, fully paid, for 14 days.
But, according to a report in the New York Times, employees at a handful of REI locations, are unhappy about how stores have handled Covid-19 infections among the staff; some have resigned over their store’s response.
On July 6, an employee at the REI Grand Rapids, Mich., location alerted the rest of the store’s staff through a group messaging app that they’d tested positive for Covid-19, but were asked not to say anything by management to the rest of the staff. What was worse, that employee had received the positive test results on July 2, but since the rest of the staff hadn’t yet been notified one of their colleagues had the virus, they could also have unknowingly become infected just before traveling over the July 4 holiday to meet with family and friends. Many of the employees had been out for drinks just days before the positive test, enjoying post-work drinks.
“I was told that management would let people know what was going on and to not post or say anything on social media,” the positive employee said.
“Until the person had sent that group message, I didn’t realize that so many people didn’t know and that brought up a lot of issues,” said Devin Hilla, a part-time store employee who resigned at least partly because of how REI handled the situation. Nobody expected the employee to be named, he said, but “saying that an employee tested positive, they worked on these days in the past week — that’s information everyone has a right to because it directly affects them and they might have a reason to be concerned about exposure.”
REI stores in Arizona and Texas have seen similar concerns from employees critical over how their managers failed to share information about colleagues testing positive.