Sacramento-area company Temple Coffee told its employees this week that protective face masks violate its dress code and that workers who cannot show up for shifts due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic should reach out to the unemployment department.
The company, which owns seven locations in the region and sells its coffee at most supermarkets, later apologized for the email — but not before blowback on social media.
The public's response prompted Temple founder Sean Kohmescher to announce on Thursday that he would be "stepping aside" from his role in the company.
In an email to staff obtained by CapRadio, he wrote that he would be giving "100 percent authority on all company-wide decisions" to its director of retail operations. Two current Temple workers confirmed that they received the email.
The first email, about whether employees can wear masks, was sent to coffeehouse staff on Wednesday afternoon. “Temple does not allow the use of masks in our cafes as it violates the dress code," it read.
That memo, obtained by CapRadio and confirmed with current employees, went on to state that if workers find themselves “unable to work your normal schedule for any reason, please reach out to the California Employment Development Department.”
The email added that gloves are allowed “as long as they do not interfere with your job responsibilities.”
Temple apologized for the email on social media Thursday morning.
“The email should not have been sent out and was not approved by Temple Operations. It is not a reflection of any of our procedures and policies currently in place. Its contents were inexcusable, and we sincerely apologize,” it read.
An employee who spoke to CapRadio, but who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing their job, says a colleague was wearing a mask on Wednesday, but was directed by a manager to remove it.
The employee refused, according to the worker, and was written up. The memo was sent out the same afternoon.
In his email to staff, Kohmescher wrote that he was "personally sorry" for the dress-code email and that he takes "full responsibility."
"It goes without saying that I have let you all down. The email should never have been sent out, and I had it sent out without consulting anyone," he wrote.
He said that "100% authority" over Temple decisions would go to Shannon Loudon, director of retail operations.
Loudon wrote to CapRadio that Temple appreciates "all the outpouring of team member concerns from the public," and that she "will continue to move forward with ensuring that our teams' and communities' health and safety remain our number one priority."
Kelly Hill was education director for Temple up until last year. She says she was surprised by the email. “It was never part of the written dress code to address a face mask,” Hill said. “Obviously it wasn’t something we really had to worry about in the past.”
Hill and the employee who spoke to CapRadio both say they have spoken with or seen some employees wearing masks at Temple locations during the pandemic.
Some customers were surprised by the email. “I was really shocked that such a big company, such a well-known company locally, would do something like that. I thought they would care more,” said Robyn Colburn, who commented about the email on the Facebook post.
Colburn questions how sincere the apology is, but says she’s willing to give the coffee company another chance.
“The bottom line is they’re allowing their employees to wear protective equipment like masks,” she said. “That’s what matters in the end.”
Sacramento and Yolo counties currently do not have orders from public health departments requiring people to wear masks.
“We are definitely looking at it,” said Sacramento County Health Officer Olivia Kasirye.
She said the county is looking at cases and patient numbers, and that it wants to “make sure that the masks are available in the places where we need them, which is the health care facilities and the long term care facilities.“
Many restaurants and grocery stores do not require employees or customers to wear masks.
Others, like Nugget Market in Sacramento, require face coverings for both employees and shoppers.
In Yuba and Sutter counties, there are orders in place for anyone entering or working in a government building to cover their face, and a recommendation for people to wear masks when out in public.
In Southern California, Riverside County has made face coverings mandatory, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said that all Los Angeles residents should wear face coverings.
This story has been updated with a response from leadership at Temple Coffee.
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