The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is offering guidance to employers for dealing with customers and clients who threaten employees enforcing COVID-19 prevention policies, such as mandatory mask use.

Workers in customer-based businesses, including retail and restaurants, are more likely to face threats or assaults, federal studies show.

But with some people refusing to wear face masks, the potential exists for employees to be threatened or worse, the CDC said in its new guidance.

The agency offers strategies to limit violence towards workers that may occur when businesses put policies in place to help minimize spreading the virus.

The guidance is intended for employers and employees in retail, services, and other customer-based businesses, but the CDC acknowledges it doesn’t address every business setting.

“A business may need to adapt these strategies based on its physical space, staffing, and other factors,” the CDC said.

Resources, Training

The CDC suggests these resources and training programs for more on preventing and dealing with workplace violence:

Employers can provide employees training on warning signs and responses.

Employees can learn verbal and nonverbal cues that may be warning signs of violence—such as speaking loudly, swearing, clenched fists, fixed stare, or pacing.

Employees can also learn how to appropriately respond to potential violence—including paying attention to the person, maintaining non-threatening eye contact, and using supportive body language.

Workers should attend all training on how to recognize and avoid violent situations, report any perceived threat or act of violence to a supervisor, and be aware of and support coworkers who may be facing threats or violence.

Workers shouldn’t force anyone who seems upset or violent to follow COVID policy, nor argue with a customer who makes threats or becomes violent, but, instead, go to a safe area, the CDC advises.


For more information, contact CBIA’s Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982).