CDC Issues Warning to Retail Workers: Don’t Argue With Anti-Mask Shoppers Amid Pandemic

The country’s health authorities have warned retail workers against arguing with anti-mask shoppers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, businesses might be able to help prevent workplace violence by providing training on threat recognition and conflict resolution. Store associates are also advised to report perceived threats and acts of violence to their managers or supervisors.

Among the don’ts, the agency urged employees not to put up a fight with customers who make threats or become violent and not to attempt to force anyone to follow COVID-19 practices. If staffing permits, it urged companies to assign two associates to work as a team to encourage coronavirus prevention policies be followed.

“Put in place steps to assess and respond to workplace violence,” the CDC added. “Response will depend on the severity of the violence and on the size and structure of the business.” (It defined “workplace violence” as “violent acts, including physical assaults and threats of assault, directed toward persons at work or on duty.”)

Since the health crisis took hold in the United States, the agency has served as a primary resource for COVID-19 information, from symptoms and testing options to health considerations and tools for businesses that are operating amid the pandemic. It has advised Americans to wear face masks or coverings to help slow the spread of the virus, which has sickened more than 5.81 million people in the U.S. and led to at least 821,900 deaths.

Over the past couple months, reports of violent incidents at retail establishments and other places of business have been emerged across the country: Last month, for instance, Skechers issued a response after a customer who refused to wear a face mask while shopping in one of its stores was videoed throwing shoe boxes at employees. (According to officials, the employees involved in the incident filed a police report and pressed charges for assault.)

“We understand that these are frustrating and alarming times, and not everyone is comfortable with the new way we have to operate,” president Michael Greenberg told FN. “But this kind of aggression toward one of our team members is unacceptable and inappropriate.”

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