People wearing surgical face masks.

In-N-Out Burger Forcing Employees To Bring Doctor’s Note To Wear Masks

Who wants Covid, animal style? Fast food chain In-N-Out Burger is requesting its employees provide a doctor’s note if they wish to wear a mask while working. Masks have become a topic of contention since the COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we know it. Many (mostly) right-wing-leaning individuals claimed that mask mandates were infringing on their freedom and rights. Today, nearly all mask mandates have been lifted, but many still choose to wear masks when they go out. People who are elderly, have pre-existing health conditions or have young children might wear masks. However, no one needs or should have to provide an explicit reason for wearing a mask.

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Unfortunately, though, there are some “anti-maskers” who are incapable of minding their own business and respecting others’ bodily autonomy. Many feel the need to harass and criticize individuals wearing a mask because of political beliefs and the ongoing delusion that COVID “isn’t real.” This has become especially problematic because many individuals do wear masks for private health reasons and now have to fear being subjected to harassment from unhinged individuals.

Now, In-N-Out is adding to the struggles of employees who need to wear a mask for health reasons.

In-N-Out implements discriminatory mask policy

Dr. Lucky Tran, a science communicator, shared In-N-Out’s alleged new mask policy via Twitter. The policy was seemingly sent out to In-N-Out employees in a memo ahead of its implementation date, and an employee forwarded the e-mail to Tran. Although In-N-Out has not publicly commented on the policy, Tran shared screenshots from the e-mail she received that appeared legitimate. The new policy will apply to stores in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, and Utah. It stipulates that no employee may wear a mask unless they provide a medical note that exempts them from the requirement. If they provide the medical note, they must wear a company-provided N-95 mask unless they can produce another note exempting them from that requirement too.

Additionally, the company expects the medical note to “clearly state the reason for the exemption,” including the “estimated duration” that the mask will be needed. Those who do not comply with the policy can face disciplinary action “up to and including termination of employment.” Meanwhile, the reason the policy gave for the mask ban was to “emphasize the importance of customer service and the ability to show our Associates’ smile.”

This policy is discriminatory towards individuals who choose to mask up and those with disabilities. It is simply absurd that a company would take away an individual’s choice to wear a mask and to feel safe in their workplace. It is also intentionally creating unnecessary obstacles for individuals with medical conditions. Additionally, employers cannot force employees to provide proof of a disability unless they are granting a request for accommodations. Most of the time, those who are requesting “reasonable” accommodation are not required to provide proof. A mask hardly seems like an accommodation at all, and if it is, it certainly sounds like a reasonable one that should not warrant a doctor’s note.

The feeble excuse of one needing to be able to show their “smile” also seems to imply that individuals with disabilities who must wear a mask cannot perform their job as well as others. Part-time associates aren’t even eligible for sick days or healthcare benefits. Hence, if they become ill for the sake of showing off their smile, they won’t get any paid time off or help from their employer.

In-N-Out’s new rule coincides with a recent legal ruling in the California Supreme Court, which says that employers cannot be held liable for employees catching Covid on the job and bringing it home.

This isn’t the first time In-N-Out has stirred controversy

Sadly, In-N-Out’s new policy is not wholly surprising. The company has Christian/conservative roots and is known for printing Bible verses on some of its food packaging. While this isn’t a bad thing in itself, the company has also displayed some right-leaning sentiments. It has come under fire for donating to the Republican Party in the past, including to the Republican Party of California, which is known to be anti-LGBTQ. However, the biggest controversy it stirred was during the pandemic, when it openly violated COVID-19 rules.

During the pandemic, two In-N-Out restaurants in California were temporarily shut down for refusing to follow COVID-19 vaccine mandates. A store in San Francisco and one in Pleasant Hill were shut down after receiving multiple fines and citations for their violations. The locations ignored local ordinances that required the restaurant to verify a customer’s vaccination status before they dined. The company also acknowledged the violations and confirmed that they were intentional.

In-N-Out’s Chief Legal and Business Officer Arnie Wensinger stated, “We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government. It is unreasonable, invasive, and unsafe to force our restaurant associates to segregate customers into those who may be served and those who may not, whether based on the documentation they carry, or any other reason.” It is very strange that In-N-Out was once so concerned about “segregating” customers based on their documentation, while now openly singling out mask-wearers and forcing them to provide documentation.

(featured image: william87/Getty Images)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.