REI employees are accusing the sporting goods company of a lack of transparency surrounding workers who test positive for COVID-19. Among the most glaring examples, as recounted by the New York Times, is the case of an employee in Grand Rapids, Mich., who messaged fellow workers on July 6 to let them know he had tested positive for the coronavirus the week prior, but had been instructed by store management not to tell anyone or post about the diagnosis on social media. While the store did close July 3, the day after the test results came back positive, to investigate "potential" virus exposure, managers ultimately determined no one had been exposed, and reopened the store the following day. "Until the person had sent that group message, I didn’t realize that so many people didn’t know," says one employee who resigned, in part, over the incident.
The uproar over that incident led to employees from other stores sharing similar stories about management not properly informing them about co-workers who had tested positive. In response, REI changed its guidelines (which initially only called for anyone who had been within six feet of the COVID-positive person for more than 15 minutes to be informed) so that managers can now notify the entire team if someone tests positive, and tell employees when the person worked at the store. The new guidelines also start tracing exposure earlier; REI was initially only tracing exposure within 48 hours of the test results, not the day the test was taken. "Some employees wanted transparency above what CDC guidelines and our policies directed, so we made that adjustment," says an REI rep. The company has not, however, addressed the claim that the Grand Rapids employee was instructed not to reveal his diagnosis. (Read more coronavirus stories.)