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CDC warns employees not to argue with anti-mask customers

August 26, 2020

Retail and service industry workers should not argue with anti-maskers, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As part of new guidance for workplace safety, the agency said employees should not attempt to force customers to follow COVID-19 prevention policies if the customers appear to be upset or violent. 

“Don’t argue with a customer if they make threats or become violent,” the CDC said.

The CDC recommended that businesses institute policies such as mask-wearing, social distancing and customer limits but warned that workers could be threatened or assaulted for enforcing them.

According to the CDC, workplace violence can include threats, verbal assaults such as swearing and insulting, and physical assaults such as slapping and choking the employees.

The CDC outlined a variety of steps businesses can take, ranging from conflict resolution training to installing security systems or panic buttons and identifying designated safe areas employees can go to if they feel they are in danger.

Some of the country’s largest retailers have mandated customers wear masks, but there have been several high-profile violent confrontations between employees and customers who refuse. 

“Threats and assaults can happen in any workplace, but may be more likely to occur in retail, services (e.g., restaurants), and other customer- or client-based businesses,” the CDC said.

Recently, a teenage employee at a Sesame Street theme park near Philadelphia was punched in the face after asking two guests to wear masks. The employee needed jaw surgery. 

In another example, a 17-year-old hostess at a Chili’s in Baton Rouge, La., was assaulted by a group of diners after she told a large party they were not allowed to be seated together because of physical distancing laws.

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