Kroger Getting Rid of Benefits for Unvaccinated Employees

Ken Wolter /
Ken Wolter /

The massive grocery store chain, Kroger, is drawing a line in the sand for their unvaccinated workers. They will be ending some perks for those workers based on vaccine mandates and policies across the country. They say they will continue to adapt to the changing political and legal landscape nationally.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Kroger Co. announced to their workers that the company will not be giving paid emergency leave for two weeks if an unvaccinated employee gets COVID-19. This will hold true unless there are local policies that obligate the company to do something different.

The Wall Street Journal obtained a memo from Kroger which said that there would be a $50 monthly surcharge to company health plans for unvaccinated managers and other non-union employees. This policy would be effective on January 1st.

Most grocery stores have not implemented a testing or vaccine requirement. Some of the business executives have said they are cautious to significantly change policies because of the concern that employees might just leave their jobs. This is also being driven by concern over labor and transportation cost increases.

The Wall Street Journal article noted, “A Kroger spokeswoman said the company is modifying policies to encourage safe behaviors as it prepares to navigate the next phase of the pandemic, and that the changes are designed to create a healthier workplace and workforce.”

The Kroger spokesperson also said that the company is considering feedback from employees and customers to guide their policies. The company will keep encouraging sick employees to stay home and seek help from physicians if they get the virus. Unvaccinated employees can still take paid time off or apply for unpaid leave.

Kroger has used incentives for employees to get vaccinated. They have offered a $100 reward for those who get the vaccine, which sounds a whole lot like bribery.

It was not long ago that Kroger seemed to be taking action in response to President Biden’s vaccine mandate administrated through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This mandate required all companies with 100 or more employees to make sure their workers were vaccinated or tested weekly. But that mandate was recently suspended after it was stopped by injunctions from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court found that the mandate was “staggeringly overbroad” and “legally dubious for multiple reasons.”

There are now some hospital systems who are are starting to retract their COVID-19 staff vaccine mandates due to recent court decisions. According to the Wall Street Journal, several hospital groups are getting rid of their previous mandates because it has restricted the number of healthcare employees.

The Journal has also noted that the price of labor has increased so much that hospitals have found it very hard to keep workers at all their levels. This is coinciding with the number of people being admitted to hospitals is increasing.

“More recently, thousands of nurses have left the industry or lost their jobs rather than get vaccinated. As of September, 30% of workers at more than 2,000 hospitals across the country surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were unvaccinated,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

Hospitals across the country have taken different measures regarding vaccinations because of court decisions. The Cleveland Clinic said that it would stop its vaccine mandate but it would create precautions like testing for employees who are unvaccinated and are seeing patients.

A federal judge in Louisiana blocked the vaccine mandate issued by President Biden for health care workers. The judge put into place an injection on the order across the country.

It remains to be seen whether Kroger will follow suit with many of the hospital companies across the country. Right now, their employees will continue to suffer both financially and healthwise.