Doctor: In-N-Out Burger Mask Rule Puts Customers, Workers At Risk

Fast food workers generally make low wages and often don’t get sick days. At In-N-Out Burger, full-time workers get six sick days per year while part-time employees don’t get any sick time at all.

That’s actually better than a lot of fast-food chains — as some companies don’t offer any employees sick days — but it’s a policy that makes it hard for workers to call in sick. If you work part-time for the popular burger chain, calling in sick means you won’t get paid, and whether you get in trouble or not depends upon your manager and/or your ability to get someone to cover your shift.

DON’T MISS: In-N-Out Burger Adds Controversial New ‘Customer Service’ Policy

Basically, as is the case with many fast-food chains, In-N-Out’s published policies (they’re on the company’s website) make it so many of its workers have no option but to come to work if they’re not feeling well. Those workers, who have been placed in an impossible spot, are also not allowed to wear a mask if they know (or think) they might have an illness which can be passed on unless they have a doctor’s note.

That’s because the company has a policy, which went into effect July 14, which bans employees from wearing protective masks unless they have authorization from a doctor,    

“We are introducing new mask guidelines that emphasize the importance of customer service and the ability to show our Associates smiles and other facial features while considering the health and wellbeing of all individuals,” the company shared in a message to employees. “We believe this policy will also help to promote clear and effective communication both with our Customers and among our Associates.”

That’s a policy that defies science and medical logic, which puts customers at risk, according to MetroPlusHealth Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Julie Myers who answered questions from TheStreet via email.

Masks have been an effective tool in slowing the spread of some airborne illnesses.

Image source: Shutterstock

In-N-Out Bans Employees From Wearing Masks

TheStreet:  Does a fast-food worker wearing a mask make it less likely they will pass on illness to a customer?

Myers: Masks are effective at reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses, including the flu. Restaurants have many of the conditions that make people susceptible to viruses — close quarters, enclosed spaces, and high turnover of patrons. In the food service industry, sanitation and cleanliness are key components of safety, implemented to prevent the risk of food contamination.

As flexible time-off policies implemented during the pandemic are reversed, workers may be forced to go to work even when they are feeling sick. Wearing a mask is simply another level of protection that can minimize the risk of passing on illness to other employees or customers.

TheStreet: Is there any health negative or risk to them wearing a mask?

Myers: Research supports that under most circumstances, mask-wearing has no significant adverse health effects for wearers. Studies of healthy adults, older adults and those with respiratory illnesses have unanimously found little to no changes in oxygen or carbon dioxide levels when a person is wearing a mask. The most likely adverse effects of mask-wearing are skin irritation and claustrophobia.Is In-N-Out Burger putting customers and employees at risk of getting sick with this policy?

TheStreet: Is In-N-Out Burger putting customers and employees at risk of getting sick with this policy?

Myers: Food service employees are often not given health benefits. 

Even if a fast-food chain does offer health benefits, they are often only available to full-time employees, meaning that workers may have to go in to work while sick not only to receive their paycheck, but also to meet a minimum hours requirement for health coverage. In tandem with a ban on masks, sick fast-food employees will not only be bringing their illnesses into a busy workplace, but also risking contaminating food.

In-N-Out Burger did not respond to a request for comment through the media form on its website.

McDonald’s, Wendy’s Allow Mask Use

While many restaurant chains do not publish their mask policies, McDonald’s  (MCD) – Get Free Report has encouraged (and sometimes requires) employees to wear masks, a policy it shares on a public web page.

“McDonald’s restaurant employees are allowed and encouraged to wear masks or face coverings for their personal safety, unless when mandated by state or local guidance due to “high” COVID community levels. In that event, masks are required to be worn by crew,” the company posted.

Wendy’s (WEN) – Get Free Report has a similar policy posted on its employee website.

Yum Brands (YUM) – Get Free Report which owns Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut allows its employees to wear masks but they must be solid-colored and cannot contain any “any logos, words, or graphics,” according to its website. The company also provides masks for workers who want or need them.

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