For some, enforcing COVID-19 mask policies can be a struggle

The ongoing battle against COVID-19 has created many challenges for workers in private and public corporations. A year after the pandemic began, workers remain in a constant state of struggle against customers who refuse to follow the rules.


*Mask up, fight to win… Staying safe against COVID-19, Freshman Janmartel Fonrouge-Benet follows mask requirements at Wawa. Fonrouge-Benet tries to actively fight against the spread of COVID-19 and to protect himself and the people around him. Photo by Cameron Lorenz*

By enforcing mask policies in businesses amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, service workers often receive unfair treatment as they enforce these rules. Not enforcing the rules may endanger both workers and customers.
Each business has a way of dealing with defiant customers. The manner varies depending on the type of business, such as a grocery, restaurant, pharmacy or service stations.
When customers refuse to wear their masks, it is often a struggle for service workers to continuously remind these shoppers, as they are often ignored or spoken back to in a negative manner.
Difficult customers are generally more challenging for workers who are minors, those under 18 years of age, for the reason that they aren’t normally in a position of authority over the average customer.
According to Dairy Queen crew member Julia Dinlocker, it is very frustrating when customers don’t wear their face masks.
“Even though I am an employee, they still see me as a teenager or just a kid,” Dinlocker said. “So, they typically just ignore me or tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
Regardless of these multiple policies in private businesses, customers still find reasons not to follow them.
According to Dinlocker, her workplace used to hand out free masks to those without them, but they just aren’t able to do it anymore due to expenses for it being a generally refused offer.
“The most action I can take when a customer isn’t wearing a face mask is to ask them to put one on. If they refuse, there is not much I can do,” Dinlocker said. “Again, they don’t take me seriously because of my age.”
These actions are a potential danger to people, putting those at risk who may have autoimmune disorders, obesity, asthma and other conditions that contracting COVID-19 may worsen.
Some workers with these conditions have no choice but to do their job, regardless of these dangerous consequences.
According to waitress Kylie Dunlevy, a worker at Souderton Pizza and Pasta, she has to “let it slide” when customers refuse to wear masks; and no matter the circumstances, she can not disrespect the customers.
“Of course, I worry a bit that they may have the virus,” Dunlevy said, “but I can’t let it prevent me from doing my job.”
Along with employees fearing they will get sick, some also hold concern for the health and safety of the other customers.
According to Wawa cashier Skyler Schwager, his main concern isn’t a customer who isn’t wearing their mask; it’s other customers around them.
“I’m not worried about the customer who isn’t masking, it is more so who can get hurt badly from getting it, such as the older population.” Schwager said.
But as a worker of a private company, Schwager can notify the manager about incidents regarding refusals to wearing masks.
“I feel on equal ground with customers, but I do have to enforce the rules from time to time,” Schwager said. “If the customer refuses, I call the manager. If they don’t cooperate, we’ll have to kick them out if we need to.”
But for other workers of certain private companies, this is not such an easy feat. Certain workers may not be allowed to say anything to those not wearing their masks. This is the case for Giant store employee Donna Husted.
“We have customer service,” Husted said. “However, we’re not allowed to say anything if someone is unmasked.”