Kroger offers $100 to workers who get vaccinated

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Kroger, the nation’s largest supermarket chain, is offering $100 to each of its 500,000 workers who gets vaccinated against COVID-19. The company’s move is the latest example of U.S. businesses giving potentially reluctant employees a financial incentive to protect themselves during the pandemic.

The one-time bonus will be given to employees in 35 states who get the full recommended doses of the vaccine and show proof of inoculation to their human resources representative, the company announced on Friday. Those who can’t get the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons will have the option of taking an educational and safety course to get the $100 bonus, Kroger stated.

“As we move into a new phase of the pandemic, we’re increasing our investment to not only recognize our associates’ contributions, but also encourage them to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available to them to optimize their well-being as well as the community’s,” Tim Massa, Kroger’s chief people officer, said in statement.

The grocery chain is also spending $50 million to give a $100 store credit and 1,000 fuel points to its hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call-center workers as an additional reward for employees who have continued working during the pandemic.

The employee incentives come days after Kroger said it would close two stores in California due to the passage of a local ordinance requiring it to temporarily boost the pay of grocery workers by four dollars per hour for working during the heath crisis. 

Union boss on unmasked shoppers 06:40

Other supermarket companies and retailers are also offering workers money to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Aldi, Trader Joe’s and Dollar General are promising employees up to four hours of extra pay for getting the shots, while grocery delivery service Instacart is offering $25 to employees who get the shots. Meat-processing company JBS is also offering workers $100 to get vaccinated. 

Even more lucrative is an offer from eight-hospital system Houston Methodist, which is giving its 26,000 workers an extra $500 in March so long as they get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Although these and other companies are using a carrot rather than stick approach to curtail outbreaks of the virus among their employees, they generally have the right to mandate that workers get vaccinated. That’s because employers are entitled — and required — to ensure a safe workplace in which “an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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