While In-N-Out typically ranks near the top of fan-favorite fast food restaurants, its latest employee policy intended to improve customer interactions may not be to everyone’s liking.
In five of the seven states in which it has locations, In-N-Out Burger prohibits employees from wearing masks for medical purposes unless they have a doctor’s note.
According to a leaked internal memo sent to In-N-Out employees, the chain will no longer permit workers to voluntarily don protective face masks beginning next month at its restaurants in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, and Utah.
As a means of enforcing the policy, the memo states that violators will face “disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.”
Health and science advocate Dr. Lucky Tran, director of science communication and media relations at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, tweeted the memo on July 14, as reported by Today.
According to a Forbes column by infectious disease expert Dr. Judy Stone, the policy calls into question the employees’ right to privacy regarding their medical conditions and imposes an undue burden on those who lack access to a primary care physician who can provide an exemption.
Stone also mentions that while employees in California and Oregon may continue to wear masks voluntarily due to employers’ inability to prohibit masks in those states, those wearing masks must use company-supplied N95s.
The mask prohibition has also raised safety and health concerns among employees. Employees of In-N-Out, who are essential workers in the food service industry, encounter potential dangers when interacting with a large number of customers every day.
In-N-Out Burger has provided no additional comments or clarifications. The company’s decision has prompted many employees and customers to inquire about the policy’s rationale and potential impact on public health.
In-N-Out’s new mask advisory is just the most recent illustration of the company’s divisive attitude toward the pandemic. Local officials ordered the chain’s lone San Francisco outlet to close in October 2021 for failing to comply with regulations that all restaurants check immunization cards for indoor guests.
To avoid having to obey its public health mandate, the chain then closed all five of its stores in a neighboring jurisdiction, Contra Costa County.