Is it legal to be forced at work to shake hands with customers?

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Is it legal to be forced at work to shake hands with customers?

I’m a bartender and after 5 years with the company they have now changed the policy. I now have to shake hands with every customer that sits down. I find this unsanitary and I don’t like touching strangers. I serve food and drinks and I can’t run over to the sink every time I get a new customer. Is this legal?

Asked on September 16, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes it is legal. The fact is in an "at will" employer has a great deal of discretion in setting the terms and conditions of employment. Accordingly it, it can hire/fire, promote/demote, increase/decrease salary/hours and generally mandate whatever else that it deems appropriate. This includes the shaking of customer's hands. Unless this violates a health code, employment contract, or union agreement, this policy is legal. Additionally this requirement cannot stem form some form of actionable discrimination.

For your part, as an "at will" employee, you can choice to continue to work for your employer or not. Granted that may not be much of a choice but legally it appears to be your only option.


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