Dollar General has been slapped with another fine by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The discount retailer will pay $3.4 million in fines after issues were found in nine locations in North Dakota, Maine, Ohio, and Wisconsin, according to reporting from KVRR, a local TV station in Fargo, N.D.
Most of the violations came in North Dakota, with six stores racking up 32 violations and $2.5 million in fines. There, inspections took place in late 2022 and officials found stacks of boxes blocking aisles, emergency exits, fire extinguishers, and electrical panels, as reported by KVRR. At a store in Minot, N.D., six employees were found to be breathing in toxic vapors which came from ruptured chemical containers. Three of the workers had to be treated, and OSHA penalized the store for not having adequate personal protection equipment.
Worker safety violations have become a common theme for dollar stores, especially Dollar General, which has racked up more than $16 million in penalties this year alone. Safety hazards have become so common that OSHA now lists Dollar General as a “severe violator,” a label the agency uses sparingly.
Last week, two activist groups stepped up and called for something to be done to improve the working conditions. Domini Impact Investment, a women-led SEC registered investment adviser, has come up with a measure which calls for an independent audit around worker safety and well-being at Dollar General. That proposal will be voted on by company shareholders in a couple of weeks. A separate proposal, spearheaded by the New York-oriented investment firm United Church Funds, would create a wages and inequality report that takes a closer look at operations at Dollar Tree. Dollar Tree officials will weigh in on whether they want to move forward with the report on June 13.
A report on dollar stores released earlier this year by The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, spoke about safety as an issue dollar stores will need to address moving forward.
Most dollar stores have only one or two workers in the store at one time, making the task of clearing clutter a difficult one. Dollar General and Dollar Tree employ over 377,000 collectively, and both companies have been categorized as the fastest growing retailers in the U.S.
Stores like Costco and Target pay workers a minimum of $15 an hour, and Walmart is not far behind at $14 an hour. Because most of the dollar stores are located in rural areas, where the cost of living is lower, their wages are below the market average.