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COVID-19

What role should employees play in enforcing social distancing rules?

Meghan McCarty Carino May 15, 2020
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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
Heard on:
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.

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