Inside Disruption Blog

Businesses Enforcing Mask-Wearing Rules Encounter Security Issues

Oscar Villanueva
August 5, 2020




Compliance is difficult to achieve

By Oscar Villanueva

Managing Director of Security Services & Crisis Preparedness at R3 Continuum


Face masks are becoming a requirement in many locations as the country reopens from the COVID-19 crisis following a long lockdown. Guidelines the CDC recently posted on their website, and local government requirements in many states are the norm but not easy to enforce.


There are some news reports of individuals arrested over their refusal to wear a mask in public places, like the 22-year-old woman in New York City refusing to wear a mask on the subway. Much more common are situations where mask-wearing enforcement is left to company employees, in most cases at retail stores. One prime example of this occurred at a Van Nuys, CA Target store on May 1, 2020. Two male shoppers were not wearing face masks as they entered the store. Store employees confronted the two to ask they put masks on, but they refused. The two shoppers were asked to leave the store and as they were being escorted towards the exit, one of the individuals assaulted an employee. Police eventually arrested both men, who were later charged with suspicion of assault and battery (you can watch the video of the incident here). This incident is not isolated with similar attacks on employees in many parts of the country.


How can businesses and employees safely handle a situation like this?


These are difficult situations and employees should, above all, do what is necessary to remain safe and secure when a customer or visitor needs to be approached regarding not wearing a mask. Here are some tips to consider when dealing with this problem:


  • Communicate your concerns professionally (keep in mind it is not personal).
  • Reference the safety needs of both parties- “Wearing a mask is a good idea to keep us both safe from infection.”
  • Work to understand their position and show empathy- “I understand wearing a mask is uncomfortable, it takes a while to get used to it.”
  • Ask for their help in resolving the issue- “We appreciate you shopping at our store. How can we resolve this issue so you can get what you need?”
  • Seek assistance from a manager.
  • Present alternatives to the issue- “They are hard to come by, but I happen to have an extra mask you can use today.”


Hostility management and de-escalation techniques are key to successful outcomes during these incidents, and training in these disciplines is recommended for businesses dealing with customers on a routine basis.


Ensure the physical and psychological safety and security of your organization. Talk to us.

Oscar Villanueva

Managing Director of Security Services & Crisis Preparedness, Oscar

As a former federal security and law enforcement agent and executive, and now security consultant, Mr. Villanueva has led large scale high-performing security, law enforcement and training consulting missions and operations in several large metropolitan areas worldwide including in the U.S.A., Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa. Oscar is bilingual in English and Spanish.

Mr. Villanueva is currently a member of ASIS International and the organization’s Crime Prevention Council. Oscar has also worked in the ASIS Professional Development Council, where he served as immediate past Chair of the Council's mentoring program. Mr. Villanueva is a Member of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP), and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).