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The Los Angeles Times reports that In-N-Out, the iconic burger chain, has instituted a policy mandating that employees should not wear masks at work unless they have a note from a doctor.

According to the story, "The policy was implemented to 'help to promote clear and effective communication' between employees and customers.  'We are introducing new mask guidelines that emphasize 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 memo said."

However, the policy only is applicable in five of the seven states in which In-N-Out operates - California and Oregon employees are exempt from the mandate.

The Times writes that "Dr. Judy Stone, an infectious disease expert and writer, denounced In-N-Out’s new policy on Twitter, saying that it violates COVID-19 recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 'endangers' employees."  But there also was an online contingent that "voiced their approval of the announcement, agreeing that it would improve customer service and that the move was appropriate, claiming the pandemic is over."

KC's View:

The pandemic may technically be over based on the definition of "pandemic," but that doesn't mean people aren't getting sick and, occasionally, dying.   (I happen to know someone who died last week at least in part because Covid exacerbated existing medical issues.)

I was in an In-N-Out last week, and the vast majority of employees were not wearing masks.  (Almost no customers were masked, FYI.)  There were a few workers who were, however, including the very nice young woman who took my order.  I didn't like I got worse service or that she was less friendly because of the mask - I just thought she'd made a personal decision for her own health and well-being.  And I respect that decision.

In-N-Out, apparently, does not.

The Times notes that this is not the first time that the chain has taken a reactionary position about Covid-related issues.  "In October 2021, In-N-Out’s San Francisco location was forced to close its doors temporarily for flouting a local mandate that required indoor customers to show proof of vaccination.

"Just two weeks later, an In-N-Out in Pleasant Hill, Calif., was also closed down for similar reasons, and officials said that the restaurant 'repeatedly' violated public health orders."

An employee wanting to wear a mask because of constant, relatively close contact with a lot of customers - and there almost always are a ton of customers at any In-N-Out at any given time - doesn't strike me as such a horrible thing.  (In some ways, it may make it less likely that the employee will be out sick, because not only are they less likely to catch Covid, but also colds and the flu.  You'd think that would be a good thing.)

But In-N-Out, for reasons about which we can only speculate, has decided to draw a line on this one.   I'm sure that it won't affect business or create employment issues one way or the other, but it just seems like a pointless and largely performative move.