In-N-Out has told employees outside of California and Oregon that they are no longer allowed to wear masks on the job, to the point of termination.
In a memo sent to employees, and leaked on social media, the company said it is introducing the new guideline to “emphasize the importance of customer service and the ability to show our associates’ smiles and other facial features while considering the health and well-being of all individuals.”
Employees will only be able to wear an N-95 mask provided by the company, and only then with a “valid medical note.”
The rule applies to employees in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Texas and Utah. It does not include California and Oregon, which require employers to allow their workers to wear masks on the job if they want.
But workers in those states are required to wear company-provided N-95 masks.
The company in its notice said that employees who violate the rule could be subject to disciplinary action, “up to and including termination of employment, based on the severity and frequency of the violation.”
The Biden Administration earlier this year ended the national emergency over the COVID pandemic, effectively declaring it over. But the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration still recommends that workers wear masks on the job.
The U.S. Dept. of Labor has taken action against employers that refused to let workers wear masks, once issuing a fine to a tax preparation service in Massachusetts. But that was in 2021, during the depths of the pandemic.
This isn’t the first time that In-N-Out has taken a stand about COVID-related rules. In 2021, it opted to temporarily close a location in San Francisco after it refused to check dine-in customers’ vaccination status. It later went takeout-only at five locations in Contra Costa County in California over a similar requirement.
In-N-Out operates 385 locations in several states, mostly out West. It generated $1.8 billion in system sales last year, according to data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic.
Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.