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

UPDATED: Sep 16, 2011

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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


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

Answered 11 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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