Coronavirus | Worker claims she was fired for wearing a face mask to work

Worker claims she was fired for wearing a face mask to work

Taking precautions at work to avoid catching illnesses is something most employees may consider, as no one wants to catch a sniffle when they have an important deadline that needs to be met.

However, one employee alleged that she was reprimanded and fired for her decision to safeguard herself from contracting coronavirus.

According to the Daily Mail, 24-year-old Tiffany who is from Hong Kong and is currently on a working holiday visa in Australia, has been fired from her Sydney CBD job after wearing a mask to work amid fears of the deadly virus.

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She wore the mask on her shift at UGG Australian Collection, where she was asked to remove the face mask or ‘go home’ by her manager and boss.

Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, Tiffany explained that there wasn’t a great deal of information about the virus but knew it was similar to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

“Having the lesson from SARS outbreak in my hometown, wearing a mask is the best way to protect myself from getting the disease,” she said.

“Given the rising confirmed cases [of coronavirus] around the world, I decided to wear a mask as a personal protection.

“My job involves numerous face-to face contact with Chinese tourists and I have no idea where in China they're from.”

She revealed that her manager told her she couldn’t wear the mask and wouldn’t be allowed while serving tourist groups from China.

Tiffany added: “After a while, the boss was back in the shop and he asked me to take my mask off or go home. I didn't seem to have much to choose from there. So I went home.”

She pointed out that she wasn’t sure initially if she been fired as her boss never directly said that, but a day later she was removed from the store’s WhatsApp group, which is where employees receive work-related updates.

Tiffany explained: “This is undoubtedly an act to show that I was fired.”

After trying to contact her boss to request a back payment and letter of termination via email she received a bounce back and tried to contact him via WhatsApp instead.

However, screenshots of their messages show that the store boss claimed that Tiffany was welcome back at work. Tiffany claimed: “I never said that I wasn't coming back. Now he's just making false accusations.

“He asked me if I'm going back to work but you just fired me and you won't let me wear a mask. I just think he wants to get the thing resolved.”

Following Tiffany’s claims, the store’s boss shared: “We told her she could take some time off [during the virus] and her job would still be here but she said ‘no’. We have staff members wearing the masks today [Wednesday], I'm not going to tell one employee not wear a mask.”

Currently, there have been 13 cases of the virus in Australia and more than 20,000 across the world.

As more and more cases are documented, employers should consider putting in place measurements to ensure employees feel protected and safe in the workplace.

Karen Holden, Founder of A City Law Firm, previously told HR Grapevine: “It is important for employers to keep up to date with information from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“It is advisable for all employers to have up to date staff/company handbooks and sickness procedures/policies which are reviewed annually and easily accessible to all employees.

“Further, employers do have a duty to look after their staff and ensure that their wellbeing is looked after.”

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Comments (2)

  • VeniVidiVici
    Wed, 5 Feb 2020 3:27pm GMT
    Listening to a senior virologist on the radio ( in response to local chemists selling out of face masks) he made the following observations
    He said
    1. Members of the public invariably do not change their masks on a regular enough basis making the mask useless.
    2. They do not fit the mask correctly, often leaving gaps allowing ingress of contaminants / viruses.
    3. When removing the mask any filtered contaminants / viruses were transmitted to the hands of the person, increasing the risk of infection.
    4. People should sneeze into disposable tissues to avoid spreading infection - common sense.
    5. Most virus contamination was from hard surfaces and so regular washing of hands and the use of sanitising gel was most effective in prevention. The avoidance of touching your face, mouth, nose, eyes was advised.

    He finished by saying that hospital staff sometimes wear face masks but are trained in the use of such.

    Our company has issued guidelines regarding the virus and we are expected to follow them. At present face masks are not mentioned and probably unlikely to be.
    The wearing of face masks is quite ingrained / cultural in some countries - China/ Japan, so to fire someone for this does seem unfair.
  • Boris
    Wed, 5 Feb 2020 1:33pm GMT
    This sounds like a case of miscommunication. If the Boss really did reprimand the worker for wearing the mask he needs to be investigated for failing to safeguard his staff, however, if the worker didn't understand that she was essentially being sent home and not fired it should have been significantly easier to sort out than this mess. If the worker was sent home for wearing a mask this is not right. I cannot see how she would misunderstand something like that? I can see how her boss might be concerned as she was working front line and those masks are not easy to speak through, however, he should have also appreciated her consideration of not only her fellow workers but also the safety of their customers. Sounds like Ugg have some explaining to do.

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