Inside Disruption Blog

Equipping Your Staff to Enforce Mask-Wearing Compliance

Oscar Villanueva
May 21, 2020



Equipping Your Staff to Enforce Mask-Wearing Compliance

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. As employers establish new protocols using the  CDC’s guidelines and local government requirements in many states, they may face challenges enforcing these rules.


In more extreme cases, there are news reports of individuals arrested over their refusal to wear a mask in public places such as the New York 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. 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). Similar attacks on employees are occurring 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. The following are tips for employees to consider when dealing with this problem:

  • Communicate your concerns professionally. Keep in mind that it is not personal.
  • Reference the safety needs of both parties reminding guests, “Wearing a mask is a good idea to keep us both safe from infection.”
  • Work to understand their position and show empathy with comments such as, “I understand wearing a mask is uncomfortable, it takes a while to get use to it.”
  • Ask for patrons’ help in resolving the issue, expressing gratitude in ways such as, “We appreciate you shopping at our store. How can we resolve this issue so you can get what you need?”
  • Present alternatives to the issue to show your service. If applicable, say, “They are hard to come by, but I happen to have an extra mask you can use today.”
  • Seek assistance from a manager or superior


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


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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).