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Can My California Employer Require Me to Wear a Mask at Work?

by | Oct 1, 2020 | Discrimination, General Issues

During the Covid-19 pandemic, protective facial coverings like masks quickly became a staple of daily life and one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the virus. California Governor Gavin enacted an Executive Order requiring people to wear a face covering outside the home – many of which apply to employers and their employees.

Requirements for Employers

Currently, the rules most applicable to California employers require face masks for employees when:

  • Working in a space visited by the public regardless of whether anyone is there.
  • Inside of or in line to enter an indoor public space.
  • Working in a space where food is packaged or prepared for sale or distribution.
  • Interacting with the public in person.
  • Working in or walking through common areas like hallways, stairwells, or parking garages.
  • Present in a room or enclosed space where people are present and cannot physically distance by six feet or with barriers.
  • Driving or operating a taxi, private car service, or public transportation if passengers are present.

California Employers not already doing so much either provide masks for employees or reimburse them the cost if they must provide their own.

Employee Exemptions to Face Covering Orders

In some circumstances, Governor Newsom’s order exempts employers from requiring an employee to wear a face covering. In many of these situations, however, it may be advisable to seek legal advice as to whether a reasonable accommodation may be made to avoid interaction between an unmasked employee and others at work.

  • People with medical, mental health, or developmental disabilities preventing wearing a face covering.
  • A hearing-impaired person or someone communicating with a hearing impaired individual when the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Someone for whom wearing a face covering creates a risk to the person related to their work according to local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
  • Persons obtaining a service involving the nose or face which can only be performed by temporary removal of the covering.
  • An employee engaged in outdoor work when alone or with household members able to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet.

Speak to a Lawyer Today Wearing face coverings prevents the spread of Covid-19 better than most other measures, but there are certain times when doing so – even at work – is not safe or practical. To understand if your employer can require you to wear a mask or learn if you qualify for an exemption, contact the experienced California employment lawyers at Rothschild & Alwill, APC today for a free consultation. We can answer your questions and help you stay on the right side of the law at work!