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Concerns Employers Have About Mask Mandates

Concerns Employers Have About Mask Mandates

There are a number of issues that employers are having as states and large companies have begun mandating mask-wearing policies in effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. These issues have appeared in several different ways.

Customers can become aggressive because they refuse to wear masks which can potentially put employers and employees in a dangerous position. Most businesses post clear signage about the policy and take steps to limit interaction between customers and employees.

In some cases, lawmakers have intervened to try to protect employees from unruly customers. This past spring, Illinois considered a bill that would make violence of customers against retail employees who are enforcing COVID-19 guidelines a felony rather than a misdemeanor. 

Meanwhile, in states like Michigan for example, the governor did not criminalize refusals to wear masks, even though they’re mandated. But businesses can refuse entry to people not wearing them. In a lot of these cases, of course, customers who are pro-masks will shame the customers not wearing masks.

While these mandates are in place to benefit the welfare of workers on the front line, employers should have a well-drawn out plan and/ or have hired security working at the entrance of their place of business, like some companies have already done. It is also completely legal for companies to require their employees to wear masks, as they are safety equipment. An employee who refuses to wear one could be considered an insubordinate and be fired.

Chief assistant district attorney Robert Mascari in Madison County, told a local news outlet in New York:

“All businesses have the right to refuse service so long as it is not violating one of those protected classes... You can’t refuse to serve me because I’m half Italian and half Irish. You can refuse to serve me if I’m being an idiot.”

Still, there are instances where mandating mask-wearing may be legitimately problematic, such as a disabled employee. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says employers should talk to the worker and determine if other accommodations can be made should an employee have a legitimate medical issue that prevents them from wearing a mask.

But for customers who claim medical hardship, things aren't so clear. A guest may exhibit clear symptoms of the coronavirus, and refusal of service would be more justifiable. Otherwise, employers would have to demonstrate the person with the disability presents a “direct threat” to the safety of others that cannot be mitigated through modified procedures. Such as, if a customer with an ADA concern refuses to wear a mask, businesses could work to accommodate the person through contact-less service, using dry erase boards to communicate, helping with online shopping or curbside pickup.

 This information provided on this website is meant to provide general information and does not constitute as legal/ medical advice.

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