Employees left to confront ‘aggressive’ unmasked customers

Coronavirus

Salem Winco employee recently fired over interaction with customers refusing to wear masks

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When customers refuse to wear masks inside stores, it often falls on the hardworking employees to confront them but doing so has led to harassment and, in some cases, the loss of their jobs.

An employee at the South Salem Winco was recently fired over his interaction with customers who refused to wear masks in the store. The customers filmed the interaction and video of the incident has circulated online.

Cases such as this highlight the fact that employees just trying to do their jobs are often the ones left to say something to those who refuse to follow the state mask mandate.

Dan Clay, the president of UFCW555 —the union representing nearly 30,000 grocery store employees in Southwest Washington and Oregon — said what happened at the Salem Winco is not an isolated incident. Employees being harassed by people who refuse to wear masks is a widespread issue.

“What all of my folks talk about is how they’re having to come face-to-face with aggressive customers who are putting their life in danger and they don’t feel like they’re getting the support that they need to deal with that,” Clay said.

And having to enforce the mask mandate has made working through the pandemic so much more difficult.

“A whole lot more stress, a whole lot more conflict and a whole lot more risk as they’re coming face-to-face, undoubtedly, with multiple COVID-positive people,” said Clay.

Workers have been assaulted, screamed at and even spit upon, according to Clay. In many cases, Clay said employees don’t feel like they have enough support and would like better policies in place to deal with people who refuse to wear masks.

“I think companies often look at this as, we can’t lose a customer for any reason, and I can think of some good reasons to lose a customer and abusing my employees would be a good reason for me to lose a customer,” he said.

Winco declined to comment on why the employee was fired but said the incident was under review. KOIN 6 News has learned the employee has since hired an attorney.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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