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H-E-B reportedly facing bullying over mask enforcement

Reports state that some H-E-B managers have been bullied out of enforcing their mask policies.

AUSTIN, Texas — At the start of the pandemic, H-E-B was quick to enforce COVID-19 safety precautions. By April, it was requiring customers and staff members to wear masks in stores.

Fast forward eight months and things may look a little differently depending on where you shop.

According to a report from VICE news, an H-E-B manager at one location said they have been bullied by anti-mask customers so much that they no longer feel safe to enforce the same rules that have been in place for months. 

Reports state that H-E-B began preparing for the pandemic as early as January. In fact, its mandatory mask rules were in place before Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued his own for the state.

RELATED: From airport security to H-E-B: Where you have to wear a mask in Central Texas

Despite the fact that the mandatory mask rules still remain in place, and H-E-B even offers masks for those that don't have one, VICE reported it got the following statement from a store manager in the Houston area:

“Many [customers] have become verbally and even physically abusive in some stores. I have been personally told by customers that HEB does not honor the rights they fought for in the war, told they have medical concerns with masks, and I was violating their rights and HIPAA laws. We offer masks and inform customers of the [county] ordinance in place. However, when it comes to making them leave, due to the way many have reacted, we have stopped doing so. Our safety is priority, we do not want our leaders at risk for the abuse we have all taken the last several months.” 

RELATED: H-E-B employees across Texas getting a $500 bonus

In September, the CDC issued guidance for workplaces who face violence associated with coronavirus prevention policies. Their tips include but are not limited to:

  • Assign two workers to work as a team to encourage COVID-19 prevention policies be followed, if staffing permits.
  • Install security systems (e.g., panic buttons, cameras, alarms) and train employees on how to use them.
  • Post signs that let customers know about policies for wearing masks, social distancing, and the maximum number of people allowed in a business facility.
  • Identify a safe area for employees to go to if they feel they are in danger (e.g., a room that locks from the inside, has a second exit route, and has a phone or silent alarm).
  • Don't argue with a customer if they make threats or become violent. If needed, got to a safe area (ideally, a room that locks from the inside, has a second exit route, and has a phone or silent alarm).
  • Don't attempt to force anyone who appears violent to follow COVID-19 prevention policies or other policies or practices related to COVID-19 (e.g., limits on number of household or food products).

Editor's note: This article previously stated that H-E-B managers across the state are reporting issues. The article has been updated to reflect that one manager reported issues.

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