In-N-Out bans employees from wearing masks

In-N-Out 's Baldwin Park location
Only workers in California and Oregon will be exempt from In-N-Out’s forthcoming mask ban in five of the seven states in which it operates restaurants.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

California fast-food institution In-N-Out Burger announced that it will soon ban employees from wearing masks in five of the seven states in which it operates restaurants, according to an internal memo leaked Friday.

The exceptions? Workers in California and Oregon will still be able to mask, if they choose, to protect themselves from COVID-19 and other illnesses.

According to the memo, employees will no longer be allowed to wear face coverings come Aug. 14, unless they have a medical note. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


The policy was implemented to “help to promote clear and effective communication” between employees and customers.

“We are introducing new mask guidelines that emphasize the importance of customer service and the ability to show our Associates’ smiles and other facial features while considering the health and well-being of all individuals,” the memo said.

In-N-Out’s owners donate to Republican candidates and print Bible verses on packaging. Does that make the food unpalatable enough to swear off?

Dec. 15, 2022

If employees want to continue wearing a mask, they must provide a medical note for “a specific medical condition or health concern that requires them to wear a mask” to their manager or In-N-Out’s human resources department. Approved employees must wear a company-provided N-95 mask. (The company did not provide a reason for wearing a company-issued mask versus one purchased by the employee.)

The note “should clearly state the reason for the exemption and include the estimated duration, if applicable,” the memo added.

Failure to comply may result in disciplinary action.

Dr. Judy Stone, an infectious disease expert and writer, denounced In-N-Out’s new policy on Twitter, saying that it violates COVID-19 recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and endangers employees.

Still, others online voiced their approval of the announcement, agreeing that it would improve customer service and that the move was appropriate, claiming that the pandemic is over.


This is not the first time the beloved burger institution has come under fire for pushing back against pandemic health policies.

In October 2021, In-N-Out’s San Francisco location was forced to close its doors temporarily for flouting a local mandate that required indoor customers to show proof of vaccination.

In-N-Out contends that government is overstepping its bounds. The company’s resistance may further be tested in Los Angeles.

Oct. 27, 2021

Just two weeks later, an In-N-Out in Pleasant Hill, Calif., was also closed down for similar reasons, and officials said that the restaurant “repeatedly” violated public health orders.

In-N-Out’s chief legal and business officer, Arnie Wensinger, then defended the chain’s stance in a fiery statement: “We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government,” he said.