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Employees upset at Muscle Shoals store leaders they say aren’t protecting them from coronavirus

Employees told WAAY 31 the store is making people come into work even though they have doctors notes saying they can't until they get their coronavirus test results back.

Posted: May 29, 2020 4:35 PM
Updated: May 30, 2020 8:49 PM

This week multiple employees from Rural King in Muscle Shoals contacted WAAY 31 concerned over how management is handling the coronavirus.

Five employees plus some family members of the employees told WAAY 31 an employee tested positive for the coronavirus but management did not tell them.

Instead, the employee who tested positive told others and word spread quickly through the store.

Employees did not want to be named because they fear losing their jobs. One employee told WAAY 31 when the coronavirus pandemic started the store was great about cleaning and social distancing. Since then things have gotten relaxed according to the employee, but employees told WAAY 31 that isn't the biggest issue.

"They knew the person that tested positive was going to be tested and they were told they still had to come into work," said a Rural King employee at the Muscle Shoals location.

This employee did speak with WAAY 31 on the condition that we change their voice and not say who they are. WAAY 31 has verified the person is a current employee at Rural King in Muscle Shoals.

Concerned employees said they asked management about the employee testing positive and management said it wasn't true.

"They kept us in the dark for 48 hours," said the employee.

This anonymous employee said other employees went to get tested because they had contact with the employee who was positive. It can take coronavirus test results 2-7 days to still come in and during that waiting period employees told WAAY 31 they still had to come to work, even though they could have the coronavirus.

The Alabama Department of Public Health is telling people to stay home while they wait on test results. Some employees even had doctors notes saying they must stay home until their test results come back.

"I have no idea what I'm exposed to everyday or what I'm taking home to my children," said the employee.

WAAY 31 called the Rural King store in Muscle Shoals. No one there would speak, instead directing us to their corporate office. WAAY31 started calling corporate Thursday afternoon. No one would pick up the phone and the call kept leading to dead ends.

Employees were calling corporate, too.

On the corporation's website there are no phone numbers or email addresses. WAAY 31 had to email their customer support line just to get through. After the 5th attempt at calling corporate, a person answered.

WAAY31 told the person we wanted to speak with a public relations person about issues in the Muscle Shoals store. The person said, "So I'm not involved in any of that but let me transfer you to my supervisor. She probably won't know exactly what to tell you but she will find out who to talk to."

WAAY 31 left a voicemail for the person at Rural King. The employee told WAAY31 that in a meeting Friday morning management finally admitted that an employee did test positive.

"They were basically telling us to get over it that this is the new normal and as long as we are sanitizing and washing our hands we will be fine," said the employee.

We then asked how that made the employee feel.

"Worthless, like we're not important, like were expendable. I feel like cattle lead to slaughter," said the employee.

The employee told WAAY 31 by speaking with us if they find out who it is that could mean he or she no longer has a job. The employee said it's worth the risk to let customers and people know what's going on.

Legally, a business does not have to disclose to the public when an employee tests positive, however an employer must tell other employees when someone does test positive.

The Attorney General's office is urging businesses to be transparent during this pandemic.

Here is the response of Rural King on Saturday afternoon:

"We know that the coronavirus is top of mind for our associates and customers, and their health and safety is our number one priority. To that end, we go to great lengths to ensure their safety, adopting policies compliant with CDC guidance. If an associate or customer has symptoms or has been medically advised to stay at home, our policy is to ask that they do not come into the store. We are monitoring the situation daily and continue our preventive measures for keeping a clean and healthy environment. We clean our stores daily and have dedicated associates assigned to maintain sanitation of key areas throughout the day.

Pursuant to our policy, all associates with signs of COVID-19 illness are told to stay home until they are free from fever (without the use of medication) for at least 72 hours (three full days) AND symptoms have improved for at least 72 hours AND at least seven days have passed since symptoms first began. Similarly, for any associate who has tested positive for COVID-19, they must be quarantined to their place of residence for a period of 14 days, or other period of time as directed by the State Health Officer, or his designee, after receiving positive test results.

We do not require a healthcare provider’s note to validate the illness as we acknowledge healthcare provider offices and medical facilities are currently extremely busy and may not be able to provide such documentation in a timely way. In addition to all of this, associates are recommended to wear face coverings and directed to take their temperature prior to coming to work. Any associate with an elevated temperature is directed to not come to work.

While our company polices are clear and consistent with CDC guidance, we will undergo a full investigation of what was reported. Our early investigation has not been able to confirm the allegations made".

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