In-N-Out’s New ‘Unmatched’ Mask Policy Risks the Health of its Employees

An In-N-Out employee without a face mask at the restaurant near LAX prior to the pandemic

By Jonathan Spira on 18 July 2023
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Just when you can’t imagine corporate America  making another dumb decision –prior examples include Blockbuster having had the chance to acquire Netflix early on, Hoover’s U.K. division offering free flights to the United States to those who purchased £100 of Hoover products, and Sears missing an opportunity to dominate e-commerce as far back as the late 1980s – it would appear that companies simply can’t help making themselves look like complete and utter fools to the entire world.

Enter In-N-Out Burger, the regional American hamburger restaurant chain.

This week, In-N-Out said that it will no longer allow employees in five U.S. states in which it operates to don face makes. The move, which goes into effect on August 14, is part of new company guidelines that “emphasize the importance of customer service,” i.e., showing employee smiles, according to a new policy issued by the company.

“Our goal is to continue to provide safe and customer-centric store and support environments that balance two things that In-N-Out is known for –  exceptional customer service and unmatched standards for health, safety and quality,” the company said in an e-mailed memorandum viewed by Frequent Business Traveler.

An e-mail to the company asking whether customers had been complaining about masked smiles remained unanswered at press time.

Starting next month when the policy goes into effect, workers who wish to wear a face mask because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic must have a “valid medical note exempting him or her from this requirement,” the memorandum said.

“We are introducing new mask guidelines that emphasizes 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,” the memorandum read. Workers that have to wear masks as part of their jobs, such as for those in the so-called “patty room” or lab technicians, are exempt from the new policy.

Most employees and restaurants won’t be affected by the policy because laws in Oregon and California prohibit such actions.  The company has 300 locations in California alone.  However, employees in those states will have to don company-issued N95 masks.

The policy will only be in force in five states, namely Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, and Utah, which together have approximately 100 locations or some 25% of the chain’s total locations.

Employees who violate the policy “risk termination,” according to the memorandum.

One thing is clear: The chain’s policy of risking its employees’ health is, indeed, “unmatched.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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