Covid Variant Provides to Employee Anxieties

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Covid Variant Adds to Worker Anxieties

For much of the pandemic, Amazon offered free Covid tests for employees on site. It incorporated a variety of design features into warehouses to encourage social distancing. But a worker at an Amazon warehouse in Oregon, who refused to be named for fear of retaliation, said there had been a gradual reduction in safety features, such as removing physical barriers to enforce social distancing.

Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said the company had removed barriers in some parts of warehouses where workers don’t spend much time nearby, but maintained spacing measures in other areas such as break rooms.

“We are continuously evaluating the temporary measures we have taken in response to Covid-19 and making adjustments in accordance with guidelines from health authorities,” said Ms. Nantel. She added that the company “will begin phasing out our US testing activities by July 30, 2021”.

At REI, the outdoor gear and apparel retailer, four workers in different parts of the country who refused to be named for fear of workplace impacts complained that the company recently implemented a potentially more criminal attendance policy that it was planning had space just before the pandemic. Part-time workers who take more than their allotted sick days are subject to the Unexcused Absence Policy until they are dismissed. Workers also said they were concerned that after capacity was limited until this spring, many stores had become more and more crowded.

Halley Knigge, a spokeswoman for REI, said that under the new policy, the company has allowed part-time workers to call in sick for the first time and that the disciplinary policy has not been substantially rewritten, just reformulated. The stores, she added, continue to cap occupancy to no more than 50 percent, as has been the case since June 2020.

Elsewhere in the retail industry too, workers complained of the growing crowd and the difficulty of distancing themselves in stores such as supermarkets. Karyn Johnson-Dorsey, a personal shopper from Riverside, Calif. Who finds work at Instacart but also has her own customer list, said keeping a safe distance from unmasked customers has become increasingly difficult since the state imposed masking and capacity restrictions loosened up in mid-June.

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