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Here’s How 3 Franchises Approach Data Privacy During COVID-19


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A new technology called PathSpot uses a light-based detection algorithm that scans hands for any contaminants such as bacteria or viruses. Employees put their hands under the scanner, and if it shows any traces of contamination, the employee has to go back and wash their hands again.

Businesses are starting to reopen, and most brands are implementing new technologies and procedures to keep employees and customers safe, such as taking temperatures and using hand scanners and social distancing apps. But how are brands navigating the potential data privacy issues that may arise from collecting employee health information?

Meg Roberts, former president of cleaning concept Molly Maid, became the CEO and president of The Lash Lounge in 2018, a beauty salon franchise specializing in semi-permanent eyelash extensions.

“As a business owner, you feel a little caught—do I keep this data? We want to be conscientious but thoughtful about what the future might hold with the need to access data to source outbreaks,” Roberts said. “We’re doing what we believe is best and being prepared to be fluid should there be a need for change.”

In addition to providing personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves for their employees, any Lash Lounge open right now is strategically staggering appointments, using an ultraviolet light to sterilize the salons at night, and using a contactless thermometer to take temperatures before employees walk in the building. It only records temperatures if the employee has a fever, in which case the employee is also sent home.

“We had a lot of discussions about this, and after a consultation with our attorneys, it’s really a state-by-state issue, and we don’t want to collect data that we don’t need,” Roberts said.

The problem is, most Lash Lounge salons are about 900 square feet, and if there are five employees working and one isn’t there, the reason that the person was sent home after a temperature check at the door becomes fairly obvious.

“It goes back to the idea of being well-intentioned, trying to make intentional plans that serve and provide the greatest safety protection and privacy, but they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive,” Roberts said. “I hope our boards, advisors, and legislators realize, as business owners we want to do the right thing and uphold certain statutes, but the fluidity of what is right and what is possible needs to be considered with a more open mind and not just a broad brush, because not every business is the same physical size or has so many employees that you wouldn’t go unnoticed.”

Though states differ on rules about taking employee and guest temperatures, Roberts is requiring all Lash Lounge franchisees to ask for and get temperatures of employees and refer to state guidelines on logging it. She is also giving ‘zees permission to refuse service to someone who won’t allow their temperature to be taken.

“We’ll have some bristling around that for sure, but we’re OK with that,” Roberts said. “Balancing safety and privacy is a new aspect of what so many of us are facing, and we cannot sacrifice safety nor should we suggest that all privacy is no longer relevant.”

'Bending over backwards for safety'

By the middle of March, Dave’s Hot Chicken was taking employee temperatures, requiring them to wear masks and gloves, and giving staff $2 more per hour for hazard pay. Employees are also required to write and affirm they are not experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms at the beginning of each shift.  

“At first I thought it was a little bit of an overreaction, but it turned out, everything we did was the stuff that everybody followed,” said Bill Phelps, CEO of Dave’s Hot Chicken.

The brand started implementing PathSpot in stores on April 1, a machine that uses a light-based detection algorithm that scans hands for any contaminants such as bacteria or viruses. Employees put their hands under the scanner, and if it shows any traces of contamination, the employee has to go back and wash their hands again.

“Yes, there are potential privacy issues, but we have to bend over backwards today for the safety of our employees and our guests, and that’s our philosophy,” Phelps said. “I think generally, people and executives in our industry feel the way I do.”

At BrightStar Care, a home care and medical staffing franchise serving more than 20,000 clients, caregivers are required to pass a medical exam overseen by a physician to ensure they are healthy in order to care for any COVID-19 patients. Screening questionnaires are also given to caregivers and nurses to ensure they’re fit and healthy.

“The CDC has given a lot of allowances on handling the screening of caregivers. There is data that has to be tracked,” said Shelly Sun, CEO and founder of BrightStar Care. “We’ve followed Joint Commission standards nationally since 2012. As a brand, we’re the only home care agency to have gotten that for eight years in a row.”

Look for expanded coverage on this topic in August’s issue of Franchise Times, including legal recommendations from an attorney and tips from a human resources representative.

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
 twitter.com/mlarson1011.
 

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