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Retailers in the USA Say No to Mandatory Facemasks in Stores

CASSANDRA ACQUAH | LEGAL JARGON WRITER



Retail executives in the USA are making contrasting decisions on whether to make it mandatory for customers to wear masks in their stores, an issue which has become increasingly politicised.

Walmart, the USA’s largest retailer, announced this rule for its nearly 4,800 stores earlier this month and urged other retailers to do the same, stressing the health risks to retail workers from customers who do not wear masks. Fellow companies Apple and Best Buy put this policy in place previously.

However, Richard Johnson, chief executive of Foot Locker, stresses the risk to employee safety that this policy has caused. This led to the decision that customers would not be required to wear face masks across its US stores.

The USA has seen numerous accounts of employees facing physical and verbal abuse whilst trying to enforce the mandatory mask policy, often leading to injury. A nationwide poll by the Service Employees International Union found that 44% of McDonald’s employees have faced abuse after asking customers to wear face masks and social distance.

Significantly, health officials across the globe have stressed the importance of wearing face masks to prevent respiratory droplets from someone dispersing into the air and spreading to others.

In England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the rule regarding the wearing of face masks in shops and supermarkets being mandatory from 24th July, with failure to do so resulting in a possible £100 fine. This decision faced its own opposition with the group “Keep Britain Free” organizing an anti-mask protest in Hyde Park, London where hundreds of people attended.

In the USA, many seek a similar instruction on the situation. Matt Priest, chief executive of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America highlights the lack of “a federal strategy” or “some kind of mandate” released by the federal government. This has left it up to individual businesses to navigate the challenging situation.


Commercial implications

  • Consider the impact this will have on different businesses and their strategy- when Under Armour launched the first-of-its kind, performance ‘sportsmask’ in the US in June, they sold out in under an hour. As more people are being made/ choosing to wear them, many businesses may want to profit from this, also producing their own lines of facemasks for customers.

  • Will this mandatory face mask rule cause a decrease in people visiting physical stores in both England and the USA, considering those who are strongly opposed the rule?

Legal implications

  • Many anti-mask protestors argue that it is a suppression of their freedom- what do you think?

  • As mentioned, some US retailers seek a federal strategy on the policy of masks rather than being left to navigate the situation individually. How likely do you think it is that this will happen?



CASSANDRA ACQUAH

Cassandra is an aspiring solicitor with interests in retail and media, as well as the steps being taken to increase diversity at all levels within the legal sector.





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