Though Walmart is requiring customers to wear face masks in all of its stores, the chain, like many others, will not require employees to enforce this policy and has instructed associates to still serve customers who do not wear masks, according to a recent report by CNN.
The outlet cited retailers like CVS, Walgreens, Lowe's, and Home Depot among those that have said they will not prevent mask-less shoppers from shopping in their stores, citing fears that these shoppers will get violent or otherwise harass these workers. CNN mentioned the recent trend in viral videos, showing anti-mask customers yelling at workers and in some cases, getting physical.
These videos have raised questions about who is "responsible" for enforcing such policies and how strictly they should be enforced. President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Stuart Appelbaum told CNN that it should be up to security or management to handle enforcing the requirement.
"It's no different than wearing shoes or a shirt," he said, in part, but went on to say that if no one enforces these new requirements, stores "never had a requirement. All they had was a public relations stunt."
Walmart, in its case, has appointed "health ambassadors" to remind customers of the mask requirement when they come to the entrance of the store. But CNN reported that a training video for the position said that if someone refuses to wear a mask, they should let them enter the store and notify management "so that they can determine the next steps." Management would then offer them a complimentary mask, according to "talking points" but even if they do not take it, they would be permitted to continue shopping, according to the outlet. Employees are reportedly being told to never physically block customers from entering the store in the video.
"With every requirement there are exceptions that have been established to avoid escalating the situation and putting our associates in harm's way," a Walmart representative told CNN: "Our goal is to keep associates from a physical confrontation in the stores."
"We know there may be situations that may not make it possible for everyone to wear a face covering," a Walmart spokeswoman told Business Insider in a statement, saying that these customers will still be allowed to shop in stores. "Our goal is to keep associates from a physical confrontation situation, and our ambassadors will be trained on those exceptions to help reduce friction for the shopper."
And Walmart is not alone. Stores like CVS and Lowes said they will not refuse service because of a lack of a mask and some grocery chains that now require masks in all of their stores have expressed that they do not believe it should be up to store associates to enforce such policies.
"We will not ask our associates to put their safety at risk by confronting customers about wearing masks," a Lowe's representative told CNN.
"We believe that the enforcement should be placed upon our state and federally elected officials, and we will continue to work with our peers in the retail industry to advocate for this sensible mandate to be passed into law to remove the burden from employers and their heroic frontline associates," Joe Caldwell, director, Corporate Communications and Government Affairs at Southeastern Grocers, said in a statement announcing their mask requirement.
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