Reopened restaurant told workers: Don't wear face masks — or don't work

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Texas restaurants that reopened at partial capacity last week have a choice to make: Whether or not their employees should wear masks.

One restaurant company landed on a decision that has some employees weighing their safety versus their jobs.

No face masks or face coverings of any kind.

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That's what a back-of-the-house employee at a Hillstone Restaurant Group establishment in Dallas was told last week, as restaurants prepared to reopen at 25% capacity, according to CBS Dallas.

That employee, who did not want to be identified publicly, expressed discomfort and was told to think about it—and then was removed from the schedule, the employee told CBS Dallas' Brooke Rogers.

Another employee said some agreed to work because they were offered a 40-hour work week, but were told if they declined, they wouldn't be eligible for rehire.

The employees said management also told her that face masks don't complement the restaurant group's style or level of hospitality.

Infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Diana Cervantes called Hillstone's decision concerning.

"It is really important to be able to wear those face coverings, especially if you can't keep that six-foot social distancing, which of course when you go to a restaurant, that it very hard to maintain," Cervantes, of UNT Health Science Center, said.

She points to Governor Greg Abbott's minimum standard health protocols for restaurants, which encourages social distancing first. But if that's not feasible, it says measures such as face coverings should be rigorously practiced.

"The best way to precent that transmission is to prevent those droplets, and the face coverings really help with that," Cervantes said.

Hillstone management also points to the law, writing on its website: "Current orders do not require our staff or guests to wear face masks. If you are concerned about your safety in this respect, we hope you will join us a later date."

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