June 14 2017

Board of Health Reaches Compromise Solution with Store That Failed Tobacco Compliance Sting

By: Rich Hosford

In an unusual move for the group the Burlington Board of Health handed down a compromise decision to a business that failed a tobacco compliance sting that included a fine but not a suspension of tobacco sales.


Representatives of Nouria Energy Corp, which owns multiple Hess gas stations in town, were before the board after an employee at the station at 140 Cambridge Street failed a May 23 sting and sold tobacco products to a minor.


This was the business’s second violation within a 24-month period, which would normally mean a one week suspension of tobacco sales.


However, representatives from the company, which has had similar issues at a couple of their other stations in the past couple of years, explained to the board the measures they had taken to prevent the sale of age-restricted products to minors.


A representative of the company said that all employees must undergo online training and be certified and then re-certified annually. They have also placed scanners on all their cash registered that identify age-restricted products and lock the sale until a valid Massachusetts identification is scanned.


Finally, they have a zero-tolerance policy on selling to minors and all employees know that their job will be terminated if they are caught selling to under age customers either by a town sting or an internal one.


“We’ve done all we can to hold our employees responsible though we understand we are responsible for their actions,” the representative said.


On top of that the company did an investigation into the incident and found that the employee had used his own license to bypass the scanner system. They also found out he was under investigation by the Burlington Police Department for illegally selling marijuana.


Members of the Board of Health were receptive to the story and impressed by the security measured the company had put in place.


“They have spent a lot of money putting this process together,” Vice Chair Ed Weiner said. “This is their second violation but there are other variables, it’s not as black and white as it usually is.”


“This is a different scenario than what we’ve encountered before,” Chairman Wayne Saltsman said. “From your account this is a bad egg. You have online training, scanners and zero tolerance but if you have a bad egg you have a bad egg.”


Weiner suggested the board make a compromise in light of the company’s attempts to prevent the sale of tobacco to minors. He said they could waive the 7-day suspension that normally comes with a second violation but still count the incident. That means if it happens again the next violation will count as the store’s third, bringing a 30-day suspension of tobacco sales.


Board members also questioned the store’s background check policy. A representative of Nouria said they currently do background checks on manager and assistant managers but not regular employees. However, he said they have recently been in talks with a new background check company and could do all employees.


The board voted 4-0 to approve the compromise decision on the condition the company begin doing background checks on all employees by September.


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