There has been an alarming trend of news stories across the country in which customers have lashed out against employees enforcing policies and practices that help minimize the spread of COVID-19. In response to this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new guidelines for employers and employees in retail, services and other customer-based businesses to limit violence toward workers.
Retail or service businesses such as department stores, grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants have instituted coronavirus policies such as requiring masks to be worn by employees and customers, asking customers to follow social distancing rules and setting limits on the number of customers allowed in a business facility at one time.
The CDC warns that businesses should be prepared with strategies to respond to threats, verbal assaults or physical assaults stemming from these policies. These threats and assaults can come from customers, other employees or employers. While these threats and assaults can happen in any workplace, according to the CDC, they are more likely to occur in retail, services like restaurants, and other customer- or client-based businesses.
Businesses should train employees on how to recognize, avoid and respond to potentially violent situations as well as empower them to report perceived threats or acts of violence. Employees should not argue with a customer if they make threats or become violent and should not attempt to force anyone who appears upset or violent to follow COVID-19 policies.