Best Buy Tells Employees Work Is Now Voluntary, Everyone Will Get Two-Weeks Pay

The changes also mean Geek Squad employees, who feared they could spread the coronavirus by visiting customers in their homes, will get hazard pay.
March 19, 2020, 6:47pm
Best Buy
Image: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

On Thursday Best Buy announced internally that work is now voluntary for two weeks and employees who decide to stay home would still be paid amid the coronavirus pandemic. The changes also apply to workers for Best Buy-owned Geek Squad, who will receive hazard pay if they decide to keep performing product installations inside customers' homes.

The move comes after Motherboard reported how many Geek Squad employees feared they could spread the virus to the elderly, as their work often involved being in close contact with senior citizens or retirement communities. Before today's change, Geek Squad was telling employees to keep working throughout the pandemic.

It also comes after Motherboard reported how Best Buy was running at "full capacity" earlier this week, with some employees thinking the company saw a business opportunity in remaining open. Best Buy has since made several changes to its stores, including limiting the number of customers who can enter at any one time.

"All in home work is volunteer only. Also hazard pay for installers who choose to work. Appliance and networking essential services only. Everyone not working is paid March 15-April 4," a Geek Squad source told Motherboard of Thursday's changes. Motherboard granted multiple sources in this story anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the press.

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Two other sources provided an internal Best Buy email describing the changes, which will go into force on Monday. All non-exempt hourly retail and services employees working in stores or doing deliveries who wish to work will receive an additional $2.50 per hour; those who volunteer to work installing what Best Buy describes as "essential items" such as major appliances, networking, and computing in customers' homes will receive an extra $5 an hour.

The two weeks pay for those who decide not to work will be "based on their average hours worked over the last 10 weeks," the email added.

Several agents told Motherboard before the changes they were using their own paid-time-off and borrowing against next year's in an effort to stay off deliveries and avoid further exposure. With the changes, employees will no longer need to use up vacation time.

Geek Squad's in-home agents are tasked with setting up and repairing Best Buy products inside customers' homes, such as kitchen appliances, computers, or home routers. This week Motherboard spoke to six current Geek Squad sources who described how the role has little social distancing from clients who are sometimes visibly sick, requires touching surfaces and items inside homes, and may lead to spreading the coronavirus.

"Very concerned, concerned for the fact that the client might not be showing symptoms and now I'm going from home to home and possibly infecting others," one agent previously said.

Multiple agents said Best Buy had not provided them with basic hygiene supplies such as gloves or masks despite the heightened risk of visiting especially elderly customers.

Best Buy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new changes.

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