This week, TraveLaw Online’s Doug Crozier and Tim Law of Heifetz, Crozier, Law respond to a question about how to deal with clients who arrive at their office and refuse to wear a mask.
Q: I can deal with staff who may be hesitant to wear a mask in the office, but it’s the walk-in customers who worry me if they refuse to wear one. Suggestions?
A: If a client (or clients) arrive at your office and refuses to wear a mask:
1. You are entitled to enforce a “no mask, no service” policy within your office. In some municipalities, there is a bylaw requiring them to be worn in indoor commercial spaces; if there is no local bylaw, you are entitled to make that rule unless there is an idiosyncratic law that prohibits such a policy.
2. Post notice of the policy on your website and social media, on all entrance doors, (perhaps) in the signature block of your emails, etc. Often, a pushback is triggered by the surprise occasioned by the demand for a mask. Eliminate the customer’s surprise and you’ll eliminate a lot of the problem. Better still, include in the notice an explanation of the reasons for it (i.e. the health of staff and the public) so it doesn’t appear to be arbitrary. For emphasis, refer to the local bylaw, if applicable.
3. Arm the staff member closest to the entrance with BOTH a detailed briefing as to the policy, why it exists, and how best to deal with people when enforcing it AND a supply of masks to offer to anyone without one.
4. Educate staff to keep their masks on (or at least at the ready, with instructions to raise them if anyone arrives) so the recalcitrant customer can’t use as leverage the ability to point out that staff are not masking.
5. Anticipate that some customers will say they have a medical condition that precludes masks, and be prepared to accommodate them. It’s rarely good practice to demand a Doctor’s letter, or to argue as to the veracity of that sort of claim. In fact, in some cases, a request for details will violate the customer’s rights to privacy. Rather, include in the Agency’s policy a list of options to offer; e.g. “Let’s talk outside.”, or “Would a clear plastic shield solve the problem?”, or “Could you come back at the end of the business day, so there’ll only be you and the counsellor in the office?” or “Why don’t we have this conversation on the phone or Facetime, etc.?”
6. Anticipate that others may raise a political argument in support of a refusal. Here again, even if you are right, engaging in a debate will likely yield two losers. Stick calmly but firmly to the fact that you have a policy (supported by a bylaw, if that is the case) that needs to be honoured.
7. If all else fails, know clearly what to do next; that’ll be the subject of next week’s Q & A.
If you have a question, you can contact Crozier or Law at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with Bob Mowat at Canadian Travel Press/Baxter Media at email@example.com.
Heifetz, Crozier, Law is a Toronto law firm that has for years represented all aspects of the Canadian travel industry. The lawyers at HCL also maintain a non-travel practice, covering litigation, real estate, Wills, corporate/commercial matters, etc. To contact HCL, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.