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To Mask or Not to Mask, that is the Question

By Eric Michener

April 29, 2020

On Monday, April 27, 2020, Governor DeWine outlined his plans to begin gradually reopening the State’s economy.  As part of that plan he set forth the “COVID-19 Responsible Protocols,” which included a new requirement that all employees must wear face coverings/masks while at work.  It also required that retail companies require their customers to wear masks when they were at their store.

Less than a day later, in response to significant push back from several constituencies, the State nixed the requirement to wear masks and instead made it a strong recommendation that employees and customers wear masks.

Less than 24 hours later the State has reversed itself again.  Now masks are mandatory for all employees, with certain exceptions, and are strongly encouraged for customers and visitors to a business.

Specifically, the Responsible Protocols that applies to all businesses states that businesses must “Require face coverings for all employees and recommend them for all clients/customers at all times.”

Yet, in the guidance provided for Manufacturing, Distribution & Construction companies it qualifies the above requirement by stating “face coverings are required for employees and distributors, unless not advisable by a healthcare professional, against documented industry best practices, or not permitted by federal or state laws/ regulations” (emphasis added).  It is only recommended that guests have face covering.

The same guidance is given for Consumer, Retail & Services companies that “Face coverings are required for all employees, unless not advisable by a healthcare professional, against documented industry best practices, or not permitted by federal or state laws/regulations” (emphasis added).  With regard to customers and guests, it is clarified that “Face coverings are recommended while shopping or visiting.”

Finally, the Sector Specific Operating Requirements are modified slightly for General Office Environments.  In those types of businesses “Face coverings are required for all employees, unless not advisable by a healthcare professional, against documented industry best practices, or not permitted by federal or state laws/regulations” and “Face coverings are recommended for all customers and guests.”  Yet, “A face covering is not required if an employee is working alone in an enclosed office space.”

At the press conference on April 29, 2020, Governor DeWine provided further guidance on the subject.  He stated that all employees are required to have face covering when they are on the job except when:

1)  An employee in a particular position is prohibited by a law or regulation from wearing a face covering while on the job;

            2) Wearing a face covering on the job is against documented industry best practice;

            3) Wearing a face covering is not advisable for health purposes;

            4) If wearing a face covering is a violation of a company’s safety policies;

            5) An employee is sitting alone in an enclosed workspace; or

            6) There is a practical reason a face covering cannot be worn by an employee.

Governor DeWine then stated that if any of these exceptions apply to your business or one of your employees, written justification must be provided upon request.  Stay tuned for the next update or clarification to the mask requirement.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to your Critchfield attorney with any questions regarding the interpretation or implementation of this new guidance.

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