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Employer Mask Mandates Should Evolve With Input From Employees

On Behalf of | Jul 26, 2021 | Employment Law

Bull Moose store chain founder, recently apologized for firing 20 employees at its Salem, New Hampshire location and offered them to return to their jobs with back pay.  The dispute resulted when the workers met with the Bull Moose leadership and raised concerns about its plans to relax the rule of wearing masks in the store, and after that meeting the employees learned the next day that they were all fired.

With the CDC now stating that those who were vaccinated need not wear masks, states, including New Hampshire, no longer require masks in most businesses, yet leave it up to the owners to decide whether to keep a mask requirement for employees and customers.  Employees may feel more safe with mask-wearing themselves, and perhaps even the requirement that all patrons of the store wear a mask; however, such a mandate can add extra stress to the employees.

Recently a Big Bear grocery store clerk in Georgia was shot by a man apparently over a dispute as to whether or not he should be required to wear a mask in the store.    Employees in dealing with the public may want input with the business owners as to a mask policy in that both the owners and employees want themselves to be safe not only from the virus, but also from belligerent and perhaps violent customers who take out their pandemic-related frustrations on employees that are doing what they were told to do by their bosses.  Owners should consider receiving their employees’ input on an evolving mask policy particularly if they are expecting employees to enforce a customer mask requirement. Requiring the employee to be masked is different than requiring the employees to enforce a mask requirement for customers.  As to the later policy, a protocol for how to deal with belligerent customers should be in place to minimize the risk of emotional or physical harm to the employees who are required to enforce the customer mask requirement. Obviously the customer is not always right.

J. Daniel Marr is a Director and Shareholder at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. His legal practice includes counseling businesses and individuals on a variety of legal issues and advocating on their behalf. Attorney Marr is licensed and practices in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Attorney Marr can be reached at [email protected].