Comments off

Image by Marcos Cola from Pixabay

Although municipalities and states are easing mask restrictions (like Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi), many stores still mandate employees limit their exposure, and that customers wear masks. The CDC also requires that patrons in transport hubs (or those who are traveling on public transportation) wear masks as well. In places where masks are more of a suggestion than a requirement, municipalities have crafted their own policies for how people should interact, and for how employees should behave with customers.

These mandates have in some cases sparked controversy when customers asserted their rights, and when employees complied with corporate orders. Allen Smith, an attorney who manages workplace content for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), suggests that third party harassment, or harassment from customer to employee, should be both confronted and reported. This abuse may violate laws such as Title VII–which states that workplace discrimination may not occur on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or religion. SHRM suggests clearly communicating policies, and warning non-compliant patrons they may be asked to leave. Smith advocates for educating employees on how to act as bystanders–ones who can deescalate a situation. Appropriately trained workers can reiterate the store’s policy and explain that offensive behavior may result in denial of service.

Mask mandates can be a smaller part of a standing conduct policy at work. Ed Stern, former Department of Labor senior program analyst (and advisor to OSHA) in his presentation “How to Adopt and Put to Work a Workplace Bullying Policy” compares abuse prevention policies, and makes recommendations on how to  communicate them more effectively. One of the policies he references is the Tennessee Model Abusive Conduct Prevention Policy, which defines abuse; explains employers’ responsibility for providing a safe work environment; describes the complaint process, and recommends follow-up training. Reporting can be accomplished via an Abusive Conduct Intake form. Policy, in turn, should be a small portion of a much larger initiative to promote community at work. Any behavior that demeans, embarrasses, or shames employees erodes their sense of safety, and impacts their ability to perform their job.

As organizations navigate the new COVID normal, a comprehensive approach for addressing abuse puts bullies on notice, and serves to prevent future occurrences. Posting the business, and if applicable, state and municipal policies in a visible place puts everyone on the same page. Training as part of a larger effort to keep employees and customers safe should be a sustained and all-inclusive effort.



Share |

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

Comments are moderated.

Comments are closed.