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Triad store employees complain about safety standards

As stores that remain open continue to try and figure how to keep everyone safe, the policies vary. Employees at one store complained.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — This past Monday our entire state was put under a “Stay at Home Order” by Governor Roy Cooper. The order was for all residents to basically shelter in place unless you needed to go out for “essential” needs like a job, food, medicine, exercise or to help someone, “Because no one is immune, because there is no vaccination. The best-proven way to slow the spread is by keeping our physical distance and staying at home,” said Cooper.

Several counties including Guilford already had a “Stay at Home Order” in effect going back to March 27th. The order was basically the same as the states and yet some question how seriously people were taking it.

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Several employees at a Greensboro Lowe's sent News 2 pictures of what appeared to be dozens of people packed around a garden center cash register at the store. 

It appears and the employees tell us hundreds of people came to the store over the last weekend to buy mulch, shrubs, flowers, and trees for DIY home garden projects, “Those projects not something essential right now. I know it’s the perfect time but not with the virus going around,” said a Lowes employee who wanted to remain anonymous.

The employees we spoke with all said they did not feel like the store was doing enough to keep them and customers safe. The store was in the process of installing safety glass for employees at the cash register, did have social distancing signs and markers on the floor and was making announcements every 15 minutes, but employees told us the store was “too crowded” and that it was a “madhouse”.

We reached out to Lowe's along with a few other stores like Home Depot and Target to find out exactly what all of them were doing to keep employees and customers safe. At the time Home Depot was limiting the number of customers inside the store at one time to 100 people while Target was rotating check lanes to keep customers further apart.

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Home Depot also had employees monitoring activity to make sure customers were practicing the social distancing guidelines in place.

The main complaint from the employees we spoke with was simply the sheer number of people inside the store at one time and the “crush” of customers at the checkout register, “The lines at the register, people were on top of each other,” said an employee.

After reaching out to Lowes and alerting them to the complaints we received the Home Improvement store sent us this statement: The health and well-being of our associates and customers is our top priority and we continue to take preventative measures at the guidance of the CDC to ensure the safety of our operations. All Lowe’s stores have signage encouraging social distancing measures as well as overhead announcements every 15 minutes to remind customers. We also have clear signs and floor markers to reinforce CDC social distancing guidelines. Customers also have the option to checkout via mobile point of sale.

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Some additional operational measures include enhancing daily cleaning efforts, increasing time spent cleaning and sanitizing stores, rescheduling non-essential services and installations, adding additional third-party cleaning and installing plexiglass shields at cash registers. 

For our associates, we are encouraging them 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. We are also extending telemedicine benefits to all our associates and their families.

Lowe’s remains in close contact with local government officials, and we will make any necessary changes to our operations as the situation evolves.

The statement did not provide answers to our questions about whether the retail giant would limit customers inside the store or even consider closing the garden center for “Home Improvement” projects most would consider non-essential.

The next day after alerting Lowes of our story and what the other retails were doing Lowes announced sweeping changes to its policy. The store will now monitor and limit the number of people inside the store. It will close early every day so it can be cleaned thoroughly. Ambassador will monitor social distancing by customers and employees will have access to gloves and masks.

The store is also providing employees with a $2 an hour pay increase. The store committing $170 million recognizing the efforts of its team and supply chain associates, “I feel much better about this, and I feel my co-workers will too,” said an employee.

We also reached out to the Governor about the concerns some of these businesses had with social distancing and what seemed to be “non-essential” purchases during this time. A spokesperson sent us this statement: “While some businesses may remain open with social distancing guidelines, enforcement of this order is at the discretion of local law enforcement and the Governor will consider additional actions if necessary, to prevent the spread of this virus.”

There is no perfect solution and no playbook for what stores should do to keep employees and customers safe. It depends on the store and the managers who set the rules.

The employees at the Lowes we spoke with say they are glad the store is doing more to keep them safe.

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Remember facts, not fear when talking about the coronavirus. You should take the same measures recommended by health leaders to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses. That means washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and covering coughs and sneezes.

RELATED: Facts Not Fear | What you need to know about the COVID-19 outbreak


It is important to make sure the information you are getting about the coronavirus is coming directly from reliable sources like the CDC and NCDHHS. Be careful not to spread misinformation about coronavirus on social media. 

For more information visit the CDC OR NCDHHS


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