Lowe’s Companies Inc. on Thursday announced additional measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a temporary $2 an hour pay hike for all full-time, part-time and seasonal hourly employees of its stores, contact centers and supply chain facilities in the U.S. and Canada for April.

Also on Thursday, Lowe’s spokesman Sarah Lively confirmed that an employee at the Lowe’s customer contact center in Wilkesboro tested positive for COVID-19. The employee last worked at Lowe’s on March 18, said Lively, adding that the person has been quarantined and is receiving care.

 “The contact center remains open and has been extensively cleaned per CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines. We are encouraging our associates to stay home if they are sick, offering 14 days paid emergency leave for all associates, with up to a month of paid leave for associates in vulnerable groups,” said Lively.

“We are also extending telemedicine benefits to all our associates and their families.”

In addition, Lowe’s:

• is closing all stores at 7 p.m. daily to ensure additional time to replenish essential products and thoroughly clean and sanitize stores daily;

• is making masks and gloves available to all employees in the workplace who want them. All N95 medical masks were placed on a stop sale and are being donated to hospitals to protect frontline healthcare workers, along with other personal protective equipment for first responders in Lowe’s communities;

• developed an app to implement a new customer limit protocol, available now on associates’ handheld devices. Each store manager can now monitor foot traffic and limit entrance based on CDC and local guidelines;

• is enhancing its social distancing protocols by adding “dedicated social distancing ambassadors” who will be responsible for monitoring customer flow in Lowe’s garden centers and front-end areas and enforce customer limits to allow proper social distancing;

Lowe’s also made substantial updates to store floor layouts to further support the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing, such as opening up aisle space by removing displays. “These changes will make it easier for both associates and customers to get the items they need quickly and safely,” stated a press release.

Specific examples include:

• removed product from the main aisle to help maintain safe distance;

• removed racking and tables in other aisles to open up space;

• expanded the area for customers utilizing the Lowe’s “Buy Online, Pick Up In Store” option or making a return;

• added floor markers spaced six feet apart to help guide customers;

• installed customized Plexiglass shields at all points of sale to protect cashiers and customer service associates working the return desk;

• increased third-party cleaning shifts to provide incremental cleaning in stores, beyond already enhanced daily cleaning efforts;

• shipped an additional 10,000 truckloads of essential products during this period to replenish stores;

These actions follow a previously announced commitment of more than $100 million in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including $80 million in special payments to hourly associates that was paid on March 31 to recognize their efforts to serve customers and communities and to help with those who may experiencing unplanned expenses and hardships during this time. The payment was $300 for full-time associates and $150 for part-time and seasonal associates.

Lowe’s is giving $25 million to support emerging needs of associates, customers and communities. This includes a $10 million donation in essential protective products to do our part in helping to keep medical professionals on the frontlines of this crisis healthy and safe. We deeply appreciate their actions and commitment. These funds will also support the Lowe’s Employee Relief Fund and offer small business relief for Lowe’s pros.

Lowe’s offered 14 days of emergency paid leave for associates needing it because they feel sick, care for a loved one or have been faced with new hardships such as closed schools and daycares.

The company extended emergency paid leave up to four weeks for those at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Lowe’s added overhead announcements, store signage and customer and associate guidelines that emphasize the importance of social distancing.

It increased services of third-party cleaning providers and implemented morning, afternoon and after-hours cleaning practices.

Lowe’s said it implemented a more robust curbside pickup process to help customers be served without having to come inside the store.

Delivery procedures were changed to safeguard customer and associate health by leaving items at the front door, garage, or alternative location, or by asking if anyone in a customer’s home has tested positive for COVID-19 before entering the home for an installation.

Lowe’s created pantries in stores so that associates can have access to food while at stores and to take home.

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