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In-N-Out Is Rolling Out a Controversial New Mask Policy—But It's Not What You Think

Critics are slamming the regional chain over "batshit" rule.

In-N-Out is widely considered one of the best fast-food workplaces thanks to its competitive pay, benefits, and opportunities for employees to move up in the company. However, a controversial new masking policy the company is implementing is causing major concerns about the health and safety of its workers.

In-N-Out is prohibiting employees in five states from wearing face masks starting on Aug. 14 unless they can provide a doctor's note, according to an internal company memo posted on Twitter late last week. In-N-Out's chief operating officer, Denny Warnick, also confirmed the new policy in an official statement.

"At In-N-Out Burger, we've communicated with our smiles since 1948, and a smiling Associate helps to set a warm and inviting atmosphere in our stores.  We believe that wearing a mask literally adds a barrier to communication – much of which is nonverbal – and promotes a more distant and disconnected environment," Warnick said.

"In balancing these fundamental values while still accommodating the specific circumstances affecting our Associates, we have updated our internal guidelines to permit only those Associates with a medical need to wear a facemask while working. This change will be effective August 14, 2023, where local regulations allow," he added.

Per the memo posted on Twitter, employees who don't comply with the strict new policy will face "appropriate disciplinary action" and might even lose their jobs.

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"We are introducing new mask guidelines that emphasize the importance of customer service and the ability to show our associates' smiles and other facial features while considering the health and well-being of all individuals…Our goal is to continue to provide safe and customer-centric Store and Support environments that balance two things In-N-Out is known for–exceptional customer service and unmatched standards for health, safety, and quality," the memo reads.

This rule will apply to workers in Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Texas, and Nevada. The only two other states that In-N-Out currently operates in–California and Oregon–don't allow employers to ban their employees from wearing masks, per Forbes. Employees who are approved to wear masks can only use company-provided N-95 masks unless they have a valid medical note exempting them, the memo states.

The masking policy is already garnering major backlash on social media.

"This is absolutely batshit, just for the record, and I hope someone sues," a Twitter user commented on the post with the memo.

"Boycott In-N-Out and any other business that puts employees at risk," another wrote.

This isn't the first time that In-N-Out, a chain with Christian roots, faced controversy relating to the health and safety of its workers and customers. In October 2021, health officials temporarily shuttered two California restaurants that refused to verify that guests dining indoors had proof of COVID-19 vaccination, the Guardian reported.

In a statement responding to the closings, In-N-Out said that it refuses "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," it added.

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe
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