Employees Express Concern Over Some Restaurants' ‘No Mask' Policy

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A Dallas County order requiring masks for employees returning to businesses still stands as of Tuesday.

But there’s still some confusion, as at least two Dallas restaurants owned by the same California company have reportedly told employees they cannot wear face masks at work.

Employees who spoke to NBC 5 asked to remain anonymous out of fear of losing their job and said Hillstone Restaurant Group has instructed employees not to wear face coverings at work.

Employees at R+D Kitchen at Preston Center were seen Tuesday without face masks while they served customers on the restaurant’s patio.

The restaurant manager said Monday that the answers to questions regarding masks and employees could be found on their website.

Hillstone’s website does, in fact, address the issue, telling Texas customers: "Current orders do not require our staff or guests to wear face masks. If you are concerned about your safety we hope you will join us at a later date."

Under Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order for Texas to begin to reopen, minimum health requirements say employers should ensure employees keep 6 feet of separation. If that is not possible, the governor’s requirements state other measures, including face coverings, should be "rigorously practiced."

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins amended his "safer at home" order Monday to make Abbott’s recommendations requirements for businesses reopening the county.

“Where the governor says ‘to the fullest extent possible’ wear a mask is a recommendation, we would say that’s a requirement,” Jenkins said.

Among the recommendations now deemed requirements: people should wear facial coverings when visiting or working in businesses.

“I’m confident that now that people can see the requirements, that these restaurants will follow that,” Jenkins said.

At Honor Bar in Highland Park, a worker said "employees were offered to come back, under the condition that we couldn’t wear face protection."

That employee said the restaurant wanted its guests to "feel comfortable" and stressed Honor Bar was taking every other precaution as far as cleanliness goes.

Another Honor Bar said via email "attire and appearance are highly prioritized by this company."

The employee went on to say "it is not currently my plan to continue working with the Hillstone Group if face masks are prohibited. I have a family and have taken social distancing guidelines very seriously thus far."

Jenkins spoke about restaurants that have told employees not to wear masks while at work.

“Most of the people that were dictating folks, employees couldn’t wear masks in the kitchen or while serving food, they’re not Texans and they’re not from here, not from Dallas,” said Jenkins. “We’ll talk to them and they’ll comply with [the order] and it’ll be a fixed problem.”

Dallas County commissioners did not issue any changes to Jenkins’ order during their meeting on Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, masks are required, but an employment attorney warned against conflicting orders.

“If the governor has issued an order pertaining to face masks, that’s the one that’s going to have the control,” Steve Kardell said. “Even if Dallas County, for example, created a new ordinance, if it was in any way inconsistent with the governor’s order, the governor’s order would prevail.”

Hillstone Restaurant Group had not responded Tuesday afternoon to NBC 5’s request for comment.

Jenkins said enforcement of the rules would be left to inspectors and added workers would not be cited, but rather their employer would.

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