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Have You Been Injured or Verbally Abused For Asking Customers to Wear a Mask? Workers Compensation Might Be Owed

The spread of Coronavirus has resulted in many new regulations across the state. In New York, face coverings are required on public transport, in stores, on busy streets, and whenever a six-foot distance from others cannot be maintained.

In recent months, there has been a heated discussion about whether these mandates infringe on individual rights, and many people have refused to follow them, sometimes violently. If you are injured or verbally abused for asking customers to wear a mask, it’s essential to know your legal rights.

No Mask, No Service

Since July, masks and face coverings have been mandatory in stores, among other places. Many stores have since adopted a “No Mask, No Service” rule, which retail workers are required by their employers to enforce.

Unfortunately, this policy has exposed many workers to both verbal and physical abuse in New York and across the country. In a Manhattan Trader Joe’s, two men attacked several employees and destroyed parts of the store after being asked to wear masks. At a New Rochelle McDonald’s, one man damaged computers and credit card machines when an employee asked him to wear a mask. And in Pennsylvania, a teen worker was punched in the face by two customers. If you are attacked, either verbally or physically, by a customer, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation. 

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What to do if a Customer Attacks you at Work

If a customer attacks you either verbally or physically, there are five actions to remember. First, notify your employer immediately and ask them to call law enforcement. They will either restrain or remove the customer.

Even if the customer leaves without police involvement, you should call the police and make a report. Be sure to include descriptions of any previous harassment or physical attacks. If you are physically attacked, your next step is to see a doctor for a medical assessment as soon as possible.

If it’s not a medical emergency, confirm that the Workers’ Compensation Board recognizes your doctor. After receiving medical attention, follow your doctor’s advice and document all doctor visits and any required medication or physical therapy. Don’t forget to file a claim (Form C-3). Lastly, contact a lawyer to help you successfully process your application.

Most importantly, remember that it is not your fault. If someone injures you at work, you are likely entitled to some compensation. It is your employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe work environment.   

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The EEOC addresses harassment, a form of employment discrimination that violates several Federal Laws, including the Civil Rights Act, and the ADA. Although the Harassment clause specifically deals with discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information, it can likely be used to protect workers from more general harassment, including from customers unwilling to wear a mask.

If your employer did not take steps to stop harassment, they could be liable. In the event of repeated verbal attacks, even without physical harm, a worker should speak to an attorney about a course of action. 

In New York, workers can file for compensation if work stress has caused a stress-related mental health condition. If you believe you’ve developed a mental health condition due to work-related stress, you should follow the actions above to file a claim. These cases can be harder to prove, so having a lawyer on your side is even more essential. 

Other Types of Compensation

If you’re injured at work, workers’ compensation is the first avenue you should pursue.  But New York also has an Office of Victim Services, through which you can file a claim. If you are a victim of a violent crime, visit the New York Office of Victim Services website. It has all the information you need to know as a victim of a crime, including where to find your nearest Victim Assistance Program.

Know Your Rights and Contact a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

If you are assaulted at work, it can be difficult to assert yourself in a world of “the customer is always right.” Even if your manager or employer believes the customer, remember you have the right to a safe work environment. Continue to document any injuries, doctor appointments, and your employer’s reaction to your attack.

If you have developed a stress-related mental health condition or need extensive medical care or time off, consider contacting an attorney. An experienced lawyer can help ensure that your workers’ compensation claim is correctly filed and processed. While some claims can be completed without legal advice, others can be confusing to navigate.

O’Connor Law PLLC is here to support you through from start to finish. Contact our law office today to set up a free initial consultation to start protecting your rights. 

Mary Ellen O'Connor
Leading attorney for workers’ compensation and Social Security disability benefits claims in New York.
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