In early May, a security guard was shot when he asked a customer at a Michigan Family Dollar store to wear a mask per company policy.
One week later a shooting occurred at a McDonald’s in Oklahoma City because a customer was asked to leave when she wasn’t following social distancing guidelines. Three employees needed to be taken to the hospital but all recovered.
Then last week, an Aurora, Colorado Waffle House customer allegedly shot a cook when asked to wear a face mask or risk not being served.
Employees who work for small businesses who are struggling to follow the new reopening restrictions are putting their lives at risk when a person with mental illness does not want to follow the new laws.
Government officials may not be aware that “laws” being implemented need assistance when it comes to enforcement and the average restaurant or store does not have a security detail to protect their employees and other customers if someone doesn’t want to follow the new laws.
“Refusing service” can trigger one with mental illness to turn violent. Rejection, accosting, and negative interactions can be perceived as “attacks”, putting an employee who is not trained in tactical movements or negotiation at risk.
A video has gone viral of a Costco employee asking a customer to put on his mask. The customer was not violent but refused to wear one, so his shopping cart was confiscated. Fortunately the altercation ended there, but do altercations need to happen in the first place?
If an employee feels a customer is beginning to get angry they should:
- Not engage the customer
- Get a manager or someone designated to deal with customer complaints
- Contact local authorities or call 911 if they feel they are at risk of being harmed
Most government officials will not close a business down if the incident (in which an altercation was diffused by providing service) was documented and reported.
When laws and ways of life change quickly and rules are forced on already stressed employees and customers, chaos can ensue. State and government officials need to be aware of the consequences that can result without proper guidance in how to execute these rapidly changing rules.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and iHeart Radio.