(The Center Square) - Workers in the retail and service industry should not force customers to follow COVID-19 prevention guidelines, including wearing a mask, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's current executive order recommends but not requires Georgians to wear face coverings. Still, local governments with high transmission rates can make mask wearing mandatory.
But the CDC warns that forcing customers who don't want to follow the rules could turn violent for workers.
In its new guidance, the CDC said employees should not argue with customers who are upset or make threats over the requirement. Employers should put procedures in place to protect staff from violent encounters, CDC said.
"Don't attempt to force anyone who appears upset or violent to follow COVID-19 prevention or other prevention policies related to COVID-19," the CDC said.
The CDC recommends businesses create policies to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus at their establishments and follow local requirements based on regional transmission levels.
The Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) has shared tips with its members on dealing with anti-maskers.
GRA republished a five-step guide from Atlanta law firm Fisher Phillips to address challenges and de-escalate conflicts over mask wearing.
According to attorney Andria Ryan, private businesses can decide whether to allow customers on their property without a mask. Kemp also secured private property rights in his latest executive order.
Ryan also recommends businesses inform customers of the policy before they arrive at the restaurant.
Current law requires establishments to post signs that say, "No one with symptoms of COVID-19 is permitted in the facility."
Still, restaurants must make accommodations for people who cannot wear face coverings because of medical conditions, Ryan said, and employees should train workers on how to ask customers to put on masks politely.
"We need to teach them this is not the time to argue with a customer over an issue," Ryan said. "Treat this just like a customer who is complaining that their food didn't come out right."
The CDC said employees should use conflict resolution to resolve issues and use security systems like panic buttons and cameras if they feel unsafe.
On Aug. 10, an employee at Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, was punched in the face after a dispute with a guest over wearing a mask. Last month, two men launched an attack on employees at Manhattan Trader Joe's after being asked to wear masks.
Kemp also ended his legal battle with Atlanta over the city's mask mandate Aug. 13, two days before allowing local governments to implement face-covering rules.