As an employer, you need an anti-bullying and harassment strategy to protect workers who check customers’ vaccine status.
As of September 13, B.C. employers are required to check the proof of vaccination for anyone who wants to access certain events, services, and businesses. This includes, for example:
- Restaurants with table service (indoor and patio dining)
- Nightclubs, casinos and movie theatres
- Gyms, exercise and dance facilities or studios
- Indoor ticketed sporting events with more than 50 people
For a full list of all places that do — and don’t — require proof of vaccination under the provincial health order, see Proof of vaccination information for businesses. (This page also shows what the BC Vaccine Card looks like, and explains how to verify out-of-province proof of vaccination.)
A friend of mine, who works as a server in a restaurant, says most customers are agreeable when asked to show their proof of vaccination.
“Most people are really nice about it. Some seem like they are almost proud to show us their card,” says my friend, who wishes to remain anonymous.
She says that on a few occasions, people without proof of vaccination asked if they could take a patio table instead of going inside. But since proof of vaccination is required for customers on patios as well, she has turned people away. No one has ever refused to leave, but some people had an angry reaction on their way out. She says: “One person’s tone got a little aggressive and he yelled, ‘This is against my human rights!’ then stormed out.”
Preventing bullying, harassment, and violence in the workplace
Some customers have been more aggressive than that. In the past months we’ve heard news stories about workers being harassed when they confronted customers who were not following the public health orders. WorkSafeBC’s webpage COVID-19 BC Vaccine Card reminds employers that workers checking for vaccine status may be subject to harassing, threatening, or violent behaviour.
The page also explains that as an employer in B.C., you must have policies and procedures to protect your workers from bullying and harassing behaviour from customers. You must eliminate or minimize the risk of violence toward workers.
B.C.’s tourism and hospitality health and safety association go2HR has created scripts around frontline staff dealing with tough situations around proof of vaccination, The scenarios include a group of guests with varying vaccine status, someone presenting fraudulent documentation, and a guest wanting to know the vaccination status of employees at the workplace. These scripts suggest positive ways your workers could respond when encountering similar situations.
Listening and responding to workers’ needs
Last summer, I wrote about a Kamloops restaurateur who spoke out about supporting staff during the pandemic. He took action to protect his staff who were harassed by customers objecting to PHO orders in their restaurant.
“Recognize that it’s tougher than normal for staff during this pandemic, so take care of them. You have to listen to what they need and think about it,” said Robert Stodola in my post Serving up safety for restaurant workers.
Thank you so much to my friend who shared her experiences. Thanks also to everyone who is doing their part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.