In recent months, we have heard too many stories and seen too many viral videos about retail clerks and restaurant employees facing violent attacks and threats from belligerent anti-mask customers who have been refused service or otherwise asked to adhere to the mask mandates issued by the Governors or Health Departments in their states. This includes the tragic tale of the store security guard who was shot and killed in Michigan after telling a customer at a discount store to wear a state-mandated face mask.
Responding to the surge in workplace violence faced by retailers and others in the service industries, on September 1, 2020, the CDC issued guidance on Limiting Workplace Violence Associated with COVID-19 Prevention Policies in Retail and Services Businesses. The new guidance covers how to manage the threat of violence from customers or others who are asked to comply with Governors’ or Health Department mandates or the businesses’ own infection control policies, such as requiring masks to be worn by customers, asking customers to follow social distancing rules, and setting limits on the number of customers allowed inside at one time. Specifically, the guidance discourages retailers from becoming the enforcer in these situations, and includes recommendations like calling 911 and not arguing with a customer who refuses to comply with the rules.
This guidance is vital as we have seen the opposite instruction from such governmental agencies as Michigan OSHA (“MIOSHA”), Oregon OSHA (“OR OSHA”), and the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (“NMOHSB”). Indeed, those state OSH Programs have been issuing citations and shutdown orders for retailers and restaurants who do not refuse service to customers unwilling to wear a face covering onsite. CDC’s guidance will hopefully force these agencies to be sensible about the terrible dilemma they are forcing on businesses and their front line employees who feel the brunt of these enforcement policies that would turn them into law enforcement. Continue reading