DALLAS—In an effort to support its employees who want to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, Eyemart Express said Thursday it would pay bonuses to those frontline associates who receive the vaccine. All employees in the optical retailer’s 228 stores, including store associates, lab technicians, and distribution center associates, will get a one-time payment that is the equivalent to four hours of pay after receiving the recommended doses, according to the announcement. Eyemart Express said it believes it is one of the first retailers in the optical industry to offer a monetary incentive for employees to get vaccinated. Although the company is encouraging its associates to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to receive COVID-19 vaccines, it is not requiring them to do so.

“The safety of our Eyemart family has remained our top priority, and our associates have been instrumental in continuing to help people see clearly, in a safe manner, in the communities that we serve,” chief operations officer Bill Butler said in the announcement. “We want to remove any obstacles, that we can control, for our associates who wish to focus on their health and take time to get vaccinated. This bonus covers any wages that may be lost due to our associates having to take time off from work in order to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.”

The optical retailer said it would provide all frontline associates with essential service letters to help them qualify for the appropriate vaccination group in their state.

“Our associates have been the center of every decision we have made since the pandemic started last spring,” Gianna Venturi, the company’s chief people officer, said. “We have taken care of our Eyemart family throughout this unparalleled time, remaining true to our compassion, trust, and transparency culture pillars.”

While Eyemart Express was able to remain open due to its status as an essential medical business by helping people see clearly, the retailer opted to temporarily suspend operations in March 2020 in order to source personal protective equipment (PPE) and ample cleaning supplies to keep associates as safe as possible.

Eyemart Express responsibly began reopening stores in May 2020.

The optical retailer has also worked to support associates across the company’s 41-state footprint by:

• Paying associates for a portion of the time that store operations were temporarily suspended.
• Covering the employee portion of all associate health care contributions for the entire duration of the furlough period.
• Paying associates who were furloughed a bonus to help bridge the gap between their last paycheck and the start of unemployment benefits.
• Ensuring all associates kept their jobs following the furlough period and paying “welcome back” bonuses once it was safe to resume store operations.
• Providing additional paid time off compensation for frontline associates.
• Continuing transparent communications directly from Eyemart Express chief executive officer Michael Bender.
• Providing mental health support and resources for all associates and their families through a partnership with nonprofit PeaceLove.

Eyemart Express continues to operate all stores with the highest standard of enhanced safety protocols, requiring all associates and customers to wear masks, limiting the number of people in a store at one time to ensure social distancing, and disinfecting all frames after every use by customers.