Talking to Customers about Face Coverings

Enforcing the face covering policy required by state law protects the well-being of your customers and your own personal safety while at work. Here are some tips and helpful information for communicating with customers who do not comply with the law.

employees wearing masks

The Oregon Health Authority currently requires the following:

Customer Engagement Recommendations

Use a friendly, assertive tone to make the customer aware of the rule as soon as possible, in as much detail as necessary:
“Hi, welcome! In accordance with state law, we do require face coverings [for our indoor dining tables].”

Letting customers know you are listening creates a sense of mutual respect. If you receive a negative response to the policy statement, briefly acknowledge the customer’s personal circumstance(s), if offered by them, followed by the solution:

Claims medical exemption: “We understand—if wearing a mask poses a health risk, we ask that you [order from us online] so that we can stay in compliance with state law.” (provide reasonable accommodation)

Focus on the requirement being mandated by the law, not you or your employer:

“This isn’t our rule, it’s just the law. Not complying puts our business at risk of fines from the state. If you are unwilling to wear a face covering, we cannot legally accept your business at this time.”

Refrain from asking questions or offering personal opinions. If the customer attempts to reason or converse beyond the initial exchange, keep it simple and return the focus to accordance with the law.

Avoid “you” statements, which can imply blame and lead to defensiveness or escalation. For example:

“You are putting others in danger,” versus, “We aim to protect the safety of everyone,” or “We must comply with the law.”

Avoid “I” statements, which position you as the authority. Use “We” statements to reiterate that this is a policy you do not control.

Make eye contact and hold a firm, open stance with upright posture; avoid saying “I’m sorry” and/or crossing your arms.

Protect your physical safety by keeping 6 feet of space between yourself and others. Do not use your body as a barrier to block customer entry or movement.


Generally, private businesses may refuse service for any reason except as may be prohibited by law. Examples of prohibited reasons for refusing service include refusal of service due to a protected characteristic (e.g., race, gender identity, religion, and so forth).

Try Saying This

Here are some examples of what to say when customers refuse to wear a face covering.

Line of people wearing masks


Employee Response

I forgot my mask.

No problem, it happens! We’re providing free face coverings—please help yourself to one.


No problem, it happens! You’re welcome to visit us another time when you have your mask.

I have a medical exemption.

We understand—if wearing a face covering poses a health risk to you, we ask that you [describe reasonable accommodations for individuals with legitimate medical exemptions].

I feel unsafe wearing a mask.

All of our customers must wear a face covering to keep us in compliance with state law. If wearing a mask makes you feel unsafe, we ask that you [order from us online] so that we can stay in compliance with state law, and keep you and our other customers as safe as possible.

I can’t afford a mask.

No problem—we understand. We offer [contactless pickup, delivery, etc.] for those without face coverings.

But I’m already here and I’ll make it quick.

Not complying with the law puts our business and the health of everyone here at risk. If you are unwilling to wear a face covering, we cannot legally accept your business at this time. We have to ask you to leave.

I’m not leaving and I’m not going to wear a mask.

We will not serve you without a face covering. If you refuse to leave, [security, the authorities, our staff, etc.] will be called to escort you out.

Order a free customer engagement kit

Fill out the form below and we’ll send you window clings and information about engaging with customers.

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