No masks? Retail employees are not law enforcement officers

No masks? Retail employees are not law enforcement officers

One aspect of the various executive orders being issued all around the country impacts most retail businesses and private social groups, as well as public offices and spaces. Many of these EOs require stores and other public-facing operations wishing to reopen to mandate the wearing of face masks for not only employees but visitors to the establishment. This is quite common where I live, and the rules apply to most operations in a large number of states. But such an order leaves one very big question unanswered. What if the customer or visitor refuses to don a mask? Who is responsible for forcing them into compliance or physically blocking their entrance to the facility? That’s a question plaguing some of the nation’s major employers this month. NBC News published a brief report on this topic this week. (YouTube)

Countless viral videos show retail and restaurant employees taking heat from customers over mask requirements. While some business owners are training staff on how to deescalate the situation, others think employees shouldn’t be the ones required to enforce mask policies.

While this may not sound like a huge deal to some people, at least at first glance, we have already seen numerous examples of just how wrong such a situation can go. One of the worst of them took place in France, where bus drivers were given the responsibility of not allowing any passengers onboard sans face mask. One bus driver attempted to follow this mandate by asking four passengers to put on masks before boarding. He was rewarded for his trouble by being dragged out of his bus and literally beaten to death. (CNN)

A bus driver in France who was beaten up by passengers refusing to wear mandatory face masks died in hospital Friday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex and the victim’s family have said.

Philippe Monguillot, 59, was left brain dead after the attack in the southwestern city of Bayonne on July 5. His family decided to switch of his life support on Friday, news agency Agence France-Presse reported.

“We decided to let him go. The doctors were in favor and we were as well,” the victim’s 18-year-old daughter, Marie Monguillot, told AFP. Four men were detained and charged following the assault.

We’ve seen plenty of examples of similar incidents in the United States already, though thankfully none quite so brutal as this. But don’t be surprised if the same thing happens in America at some point.

And that brings us to the question of the day. If the local, municipal or state government issues an order saying that masks are mandatory inside of stores, churches, or anyplace else in the private sector, whose responsibility is it to enforce that decree? Sure, the store can put up a sign saying that masks are “required” to enter and do business. I don’t leave the house much these days (obviously) but I’ve seen plenty of such signs on the rare occasions when I’ve had to venture out. But what happens if someone ignores the sign and walks in anyway?

Certainly, an employee or manager could politely remind them, but the person could just as easily refuse. And then what? You can tell them that they won’t be served and wait for them to give up and leave, I suppose. But if they become belligerent, you’re probably going to have to call the cops on them. Given how long the average police response time is, you now have some time on your hands with a stock clerk or cashier facing down a potentially violent individual. And I’m sure that stories about your place of business calling the cops on somebody looking to pick up a bag of grass seed will do wonders for your customer approval ratings.

I’m not saying there’s an ideal solution to this problem staring us in the face. There aren’t enough cops in any precinct in the nation to station one outside every Target, Walmart and gas station to make sure everyone is complying with the local mask orders. But it’s the consumer who refuses to wear the mask who should be held accountable if anyone must be. Fining or otherwise punishing businesses and churches for being unable to control the behavior of their customers or members can not be allowed as long as a good-faith effort was made to inform the public of the rules.

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