An employee at R+D Kitchen in Dallas has won the right to wear a protective face mask on the job despite an alleged policy by the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Hillstone Restaurant Group that prohibits workers from wearing them.
The 116th Judicial District Court in Dallas County has granted her a temporary 14-day restraining order allowing her to wear the mask during work hours, the first step in a lawsuit — Jane Doe v. Hillstone Restaurant Group, Inc. — which on May 7 was removed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The employee, who is not named, is a kitchen worker who alleges that she was denied hours until she agreed to work without a mask after the restaurant reopened for dine-in service on May 1.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have recommended the use of facial masks by food and agriculture workers to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In addition, a Dallas County judge’s order from April 23 requires all workers at businesses to wear facial coverings. The lawsuit charges that "Jane Doe and similarly situated employees are being put to an unacceptable and impermissable choice: if they want to earn money to feed their families, they must choose to violate the law" and potentially expose themselves to coronavirus, according to court documents.
"Hillstone as a company is violating the law and endangering its workers and the public with its misguided policy," Brent Walker, one of the lawyers that represents the unnamed plaintiff, said in a statement. "The question now is, will Hillstone follow the law and require the rest of its employees to use face coverings? […] If not, we'll be ready to go to court on their behalf as well."
The Dallas Observer reported that Hillstone had threatened to fire workers who wanted to wear personal protective equipment, according to an anonymous tipster with close ties to the restaurant group.
The policies were confirmed in a People Newspapers interview with R+D Kitchen manager, who identified herself only as Emily.
“It is true. We’re not allowing masks,” Emily told People Newspapers in an interview published on May 3.
Hillstone Restaurant Group’s coronavirus policies for its Texas restaurants listed on their website seem to confirm this policy:
“While masks are not required to be worn by guests or staff members, our staff is aware of the need to provide space. If you are concerned about your well-being with respect to masks not being worn by staff or by other guests, we hope you will join us at a later date.”
Restaurant Hospitality was unable to reach Hillstone Restaurant Group for comment, and the law firm involved in the federal case against the group also did not immediately respond.
Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]
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