Masks have for some reason become a new source of contention. For many people in Human Resources, they are taking on this heated battle with their employees with a lot of opposition. COVID-19 has changed our daily lives, and that includes our office life. On April 3rd, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommended that the public use face masks to stop the spread of the virus. Additionally, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has stated that employers can require employees to wear PPE (personal protective equipment), such as masks, gloves, etc. After these decrees, many employers have instituted policies that its employees must wear face masks, which came with push back from some disgruntled employees. Is it legal for employers to do this?
Can You Require Your Employees To Wear A Mask?
A short answer: Yes.
Well, it depends on the nature of your work and any religious or medical exceptions, but for most workplaces, it is legal for employers to mandate the use of a mask.
Employers are able to require employees to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) when they are “necessary to protect the health of workers” under OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines (see 29 C.F.R. 1910.134). However, employers are mandated to provide PPE to their workers if they deem it necessary to wear masks in the workplace. Furthermore, employers need to provide training on how to use PPE and how to safely dispose of them, but OSHA does not explicitly state that training is mandatory for common face masks.
Governor Abbott Urges Texans to Help Reduce Transmission of COVID-19
Due to the rise in the State’s COVID-19 cases and the number of hospitalizations, Governor Abbott urges Texans to take the following individual precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and, ultimately, avoid shutting down Texas, again.
- Stay Home if you can;
- Wash and sanitize your hands frequently;
- Practice social distancing (stay six feet away from others);
- If you can’t stay six feet away from others, wear a face covering.
- Not wearing masks will cause COVID-19 to spread faster
Governor Abbott also announced the following actions that the State is doing to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19:
- The State has increased the number of administrative compliance closings (for example, TABC has been pulling the licenses of bars that have not been in compliance with the “Opening Texas” requirements for capacity and movement of patrons – thereby forcing them to close).
- The State is surging testing resources in areas that may be hotspots in conjunction with the CDC and the National Guard.
- The State is working with hospitals to ensure that they have the ability to treat anyone with COVID-19.
- Wearing masks help keep Texas businesses open. Not taking action to slow the spread – like wearing masks – will cause COVID to spread faster, which will lead to the closure of businesses.
Medical and Religious Exceptions
There are exceptions to wearing masks if you have medical or religious exceptions. If your employee has a respiratory illness, a disability, has PTSD from wearing a mask, etc., they must inform you to receive an exemption from wearing masks. The same applies to religious exceptions. Sit down with your employee to have an understanding of why they cannot wear a mask and how you can accommodate them. Transparency and communication are important as it is recommended to disclose to your employees about why someone isn’t required to wear a mask. Don’t pick and choose who is allowed to forgo mask-wearing as it could cause tension in the workplace. If a man is allotted an exception for a medical reason but a woman is not given the same exception, the woman can file a complaint about sex discrimination.
We hope this gives you clarification on whether it is legal for employers to require employees to wear a mask. If you are interested in more career advice and job postings, consider following us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin for more information.