COVID-19 UPDATE: Should Employers Require Face Masks in the Workplace?

Employers wondering how to best protect employees from COVID-19 exposure may be considering whether they should allow or require employees to wear face masks at work.

Recent guidance[1] from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends covering the mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when in public, especially in places where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain and in areas of significant community-based transmission.  The CDC cautions though that use of a cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

Employers should consider several factors to decide whether to allow or require mask use by employees.  Factors include the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at the workplace, the conduciveness to social distancing in the workplace, and whether there is a compelling safety reason not to allow or require mask use.  To aid employers in making this decision, we recommend using the following guidelines:

Employers should also consider that certain employees may be at higher risk due to underlying medical conditions, and mask use may be considered a reasonable accommodation under the state accommodation law or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)[2].

If you are unsure of what policies to implement regarding mask use by employees in the workplace, seek legal counsel.

About the Authors: Meredith R. Farrell[3] and Kelley L. Stonebraker[4]

Endnotes:
  1. Recent guidance: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html
  2. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): https://www.ada.gov/2010_regs.htm
  3. Meredith R. Farrell: https://orr-reno.com/our-people/meredith-r-farrell/
  4. Kelley L. Stonebraker: https://orr-reno.com/our-people/kelley-stonebraker/

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