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Lowe’s will not ask its employees to enforce its mandatory in-store mask rule over fears of violent anti-mask shoppers.
The home improvement retailer’s new policy mandating that all shoppers don masks or facial coverings went into effect July 20.
The Charlotte Observer‘s Joe Marusak was first to report that workers will not be asked to enforce the order.
A Lowe’s spokesperson said that the company “will not ask our associates to put their safety at risk by confronting customers about wearing masks.”
“Safety has been and continues to be our priority,” a Lowe’s spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement.
Lowe’s just joined the ranks of retailers requiring customers to wear masks or facial coverings in all its locations across the United States. But employees working in the stores will not be allowed to enforce the new rule due to fears of risking violence from anti-mask shoppers.
On July 20, Lowe’s began mandating that all shoppers don masks or facial coverings in order to shop.
“For the safety of everyone in our stores, we ask that customers wear masks, and to make this new standard less restrictive, we will make masks available to those who need them,” CEO Marvin Ellison said in a statement.
The company also offered to distribute disposable masks to customers lacking personal protective equipment. But a day after the order went into effect, the Charlotte Observer‘s Joe Marusak first reported that the company will not permit its employees to enforce the new policy.
The reason? Much like the mask mandate, Lowe’s’ official policy barring the actual enforcement of that rule centers around safety concerns — specifically that customers could become violent if told to leave the store.
“We will not ask our associates to put their safety at risk by confronting customers about wearing masks, so we are consistently requesting that customers wear masks for the safety of everyone in our stores,” a Lowe’s spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider.
A current Lowe’s employee told Business Insider that if a customer refuses to don a mask or a facial covering, “we are supposed to say thank you and let them continue.”
The company spokesperson said that the retailer will continue to take steps to prevent the spread of disease in its stores. Lowe’s will add signs encouraging shoppers to wear masks at store entrances, hand out free masks to shoppers without facial coverings, and employ “overhead announcements, signage and ambassadors” to “reinforce social distancing at our stores.”
“Safety has been and continues to be our priority,” the spokesperson added.
Lowe’s is just the latest retailer to attempt the balancing act that comes with enforcing public health measures within stores. Retail workers have long been stuck in the middle of an increasingly hostile culture war over coronavirus-related policy. Retailers like Office Depot have released entire memos breaking down how workers can safely confront shoppers flouting mask or social distancing rules.
And the results of this clash have been, at times, brutal. Hundreds of McDonald’s workers have reported assaults perpetuated by anti-mask diners. In May, 43-year-old Family Dollar security guard Calvin Munerlyn was shot and killed in Flint, Michigan after an argument over masks.
The CDC currently calls on Americans to don masks and facial coverings to curb the spread of the virus, as the pandemic’s death toll in the US has crossed 144,000.
Read Lowe’s’ full statement:
Safety has been and continues to be our priority. We will not ask our associates to put their safety at risk by confronting customers about wearing masks, so we are consistently requesting that customers wear masks for the safety of everyone in our stores. We are adding signage to this effect at all of our entrances, providing free masks at our customer service desks for those who need them and continuing to reinforce social distancing at our stores through overhead announcements, signage and ambassadors.
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Read the original article on Business Insider