Author: Cailyn Schiltz
Michelangelo’s Coffee House terminated two employees this Monday after they attempted to require customers to wear face masks.
Former barista Alexis Lynn shared in a Twitter thread that multiple employees felt uncomfortable serving customers and working with other employees who did not wear masks. Alexis quotes her manager calling that discomfort “holding the store hostage” despite Lynn continuing to serve unmasked customers. She also claims it is impossible to keep six feet of distance behind the counter.
She and her coworker made and displayed a sign reading “Masks Required” on June 29th at 8 A.M. and promptly lost their jobs at 9 A.M., according to a now-deleted-Facebook post from Michelangelo’s on July 1st. Michelangelo’s claims that the baristas walked off the job when management would not immediately implement a mask policy.
In the deleted post, Michelangelo’s Coffee House described a mask policy as a “decision that needs to be carefully drawn up and a plan in place to enforce the policy.” Multiple Facebook commenters pointed out that Michelangelo’s has had weeks to formulate such a plan.
The coffee house also claimed that their lack of a mask policy stemmed from a desire to avoid “conflict and violence” and “customer’s aggression.”
After Alexis posted her story on Twitter, it seems that the customer aggression was pointed at Michelangelo’s Coffee House.
“Michelangelo’s brands itself as a safe space for the Madison community, but how can it be so when it doesn’t take simple steps to protect public health?” said Google reviewer Emily Hainsworth. “Michelangelo’s won’t be seeing my business again.”
All Michelangelo’s employees have agreed to wear face masks and request customers to do the same, according to a Facebook post this morning.
Alexis shared that she and her coworker want their message to stay focused on public health and holding business owners and government officials accountable for sacrificing workers’ health and safety.
There have been 692 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 this week in Dane County, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services promotes good hand hygiene, six feet of physical distance, and cloth face masks as some of the best ways to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Face masks are shown to reduce asymptomatic transmission by reducing the amount of droplets in the air when someone talks, coughs, sneezes or breathes, according to the Wisconsin DHS website. The Wisconsin DHS recommends cloth face coverings when social distancing is difficult and when leaving the house for essential business like grocery shopping, exercising and going to work.
Public Health Madison & Dane County released a list of workplace requirements for businesses opening back up. It states that employers must provide personal protective equipment such as face masks and that employees must use it to the best of their ability.
“It is proven that masks can decrease transmission rates significantly, so why are many businesses jeopardizing their employees’ health by not requiring them?” said Alexis in a Twitter thread. “People deserve to feel safe at work when their leadership fails them.”