With the pandemic's arrival, many small businesses faced a problem they never had before.
Refusing service because someone doesn’t wear a mask has become a daily occurrence. Still, when and under what circumstances can a business refuse service? Let’s dive deeper into the topic below.
The Right to Refuse Service
Small businesses usually do whatever they can to provide a pleasant customer experience. Losing a customer means losing revenue. Small businesses already face many challenges, such as competition, marketing, finding experienced employees, so losing a customer is an additional burden. However, there are some instances when refusing service is necessary.
Any employee or a small business owner can stop someone from entering the premises or refusing to serve them if that decision isn't based on discrimination. There's a common law that allows both the staff and the owner to refuse service and entry to whomever they choose.
Pubs are one example where refusing service in some cases is entirely legal. In pubs specifically, refusing entry and denying service should be done to prevent disorder or accidents. Children are not allowed to enter, and staff should not serve alcohol to minors or already intoxicated people.
Other reasonable situations when it’s legal to refuse the service include when:
- The staff doesn’t perform the service requested by the client.
- The client can’t pay for the service.
- There are ethical or regulatory reasons to refuse service.
- Staff members don't have enough skills to perform the service.
When Refusing Service or Entry to Customers Is Illegal
There are some situations when refusing service or entry is illegal. These situations usually involve some form of discrimination toward the customer. Discrimination includes, but is not limited to:
Discrimination may also include:
- Stopping the service
- Providing worse service or a product
- Causing harm while providing services or products
Still, businesses are sometimes allowed to discriminate based on age, like pubs mentioned above, holiday companies that provide service for one age group only, residential property owners, and similar.
What Can Customers Do?
Customers who feel like they’ve been discriminated against have grounds for legal action based on the Customer Non-Discrimination Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and other laws. These acts cover various types of discrimination and explain the duties and rights of discriminated individuals in the private sector.
How Can You Protect Yourself from a Claim When You Refuse Service?
One way to protect yourself from a claim is to train the personnel and implement best practices regarding customer discrimination. These best practices include teaching all employees about customer discrimination. They should learn what it looks like since every form of discrimination is different.
Customers should be allowed to enjoy what your store has to offer, and employees should be trained to assist them if needed. The best thing to do is install the security cameras. This ensures that all instances of discrimination are caught on tape or proves that they never happened.
Service During the Pandemic
Providing service during the pandemic put staff and business owners in a completely new situation. Not only did 8 out of 10 SMEs take a revenue hit, but face masks became compulsory, and they had to deal with this too. However, some individuals decided not to wear them. This confused the customers as well as the staff.
Luckily, such questions were quickly answered—a business has the right to refuse entry and service if a customer doesn’t wear a face mask upon entering the premises. In some cases, even the police have to get involved.
In one particular case, a woman entered the store with a bandana over her face, which she quickly pulled down. She claimed she had a medical condition. The employee asked her to put it back on, yet she refused. Soon after, the employee had to call the police, and the women left the store. In another example, an angry man who refused to wear a mask ended up stealing a phone charger from the store.
Small businesses are an integral part of the economy. They create new job opportunities and help the community thrive. Most of the time, working with people is a pleasant experience, especially when customers are happy with the service. Unfortunately, they can sometimes be too much to handle.
That’s why refusing service and entry to customers is legal in most cases, especially if they’re violating the rules. In other instances, refusing service or entry to someone based on race, sexual orientation, physical appearance, disability, and similar is nothing more than discrimination. In such cases, customers have the right to take legal action against that particular business.