COVID-19

What role should employees play in enforcing social distancing rules?

Meghan McCarty Carino May 15, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Should restaurant and retail employees be in charge of enforcing the law? Joe Raedle/Getty Images
COVID-19

What role should employees play in enforcing social distancing rules?

Meghan McCarty Carino May 15, 2020
Should restaurant and retail employees be in charge of enforcing the law? Joe Raedle/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

More states are easing some lockdown restrictions, but that easing comes with a lot of questions for businesses that are opening back up.

First, The Wall Street Journal, and then The New York Times, got a hold of the plan at McDonald’s, where the bathrooms will be cleaned every half hour and there are company talking points to be used by employees to deal with customers who break the rules.

That is going to be thorny at lots of businesses.

Los Angeles requires residents to wear masks outside their homes, including when they shop at stores. But Dionna Richardson, a cashier at Ralphs, sees customers who don’t wear them.

“And I’ll say, ‘Sir, you know, next time you come in’ — or, ‘Ma’am, I need you to wear a face mask,’ and then they cuss me out,” Richardson said. “‘I’ll do what I want. Don’t ever tell me what to do again.'”

She’s heard about violent incidents erupting in other stores. Earlier this week, a security guard at an LA Target suffered a broken arm after employees confronted two men about allegedly not wearing face masks.

“It shouldn’t be the role of a retail employee to enforce the law,” said Jason Brewer, with the Retail Industry Leaders Association. He says stores should rely on signs and PA announcements to inform the public of the rules.

But those rules have become symbols of differing world views, says Thomas Pepinsky at Cornell University.

“The mask is a visible reminder of the existence of a crisis,” Pepinsky said.

And that means retail employees may find that a request to wear a mask puts them in a tough spot.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The latest: President Donald Trump signed an executive action directing $400 extra a week in unemployment benefits. But will that aid actually reach people? It’s still unclear. Trump directed federal agencies to send $300 dollars in weekly aid, taken from the federal disaster relief fund, and called on states to provide an additional $100. But states’ budgets are stretched thin as it is.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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