From the WebMD Archives

August 26, 2020 -- Retail and service workers can limit workplace violence by simply not engaging in heated conversations with shoppers who object to COVID-19 prevention policies, according to new guidance issued by the CDC on Monday.

As businesses implement practices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, such as face masks, social distancing and limiting the number of customers, employees could face threats or even assaults.

If a shopper is upset about mask guidelines or limits on items in stores, don’t force them to follow policies, the CDC guidance says.

“Don’t argue with a customer if they make threats or become violent,” according to the guidance.

The guidance also includes advice for employers, such as providing threat recognition and conflict resolution training to employees, installing panic buttons or alarms, identifying a safe area for employees to go if they find themselves in a threatening situation, and assigning two workers to team up in areas where they enforce COVID-19 prevention policies.

The CDC also recommends learning verbal and non-verbal cues that could be warning signs of possible violence, such as speaking loudly, swearing, clenched fists, heavy breathing, a fixed stare and pacing.

The advice backs up what some retailers have advised on their own, according to Bloomberg News. In July, Walmart Inc. told employees to stay calm, show understanding and leave customers alone if they insist on not wearing a mask. Home Depot and CVS have also announced that they will still serve customers who refuse to wear masks, according to CNN.

Show Sources

CDC, “Limiting Workplace Violence Associated with COVID-19 Prevention Policies in Retail and Services Businesses.”

Bloomberg News, “Don’t Argue With Anti-Mask Shoppers, CDC Guides Retail Employees.”

CNN, “Don’t argue with anti-maskers, CDC warns stores.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info