Western New York is starting to un-PAUSE. You can feel the excitement in the air! Un-PAUSE-ing may feel incredibly exciting after these months on PAUSE, but there are still safety protocols that we need to follow to help stop the spread of coronavirus. This includes face coverings in the workplace.

In April, Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order ordering all essential businesses to both provide face coverings for their employees and to require employees who interact with the public to wear face coverings. Now that more people are able to work in-person, there are questions about what the rules are and how they should be implemented.

One of the first questions is:  What qualifies as a face covering? Face coverings include cloths, surgical masks, N-95 respirators, and face shields. Generally, members of the public are encouraged to not use surgical masks in order to save those supplies for health care workers.

Do I have to wear a face covering at work? Employees working with the public and/or in close proximity (less than 6 feet apart) from other employees need to cover their faces. OSHA, following CDC recommendations, has given employers discretion regarding masks, depending on the circumstances. If wearing face coverings would present a hazard, then employers may allow their employees to forego face coverings. Employers should try identifying face coverings that would not be a hazard first, like face shields or surgical masks. Not wearing a face covering makes social distancing even more important. This follows Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order which says that if a person cannot wear a face covering for medical or health reasons, they do not have to do so.

Do I have to enforce the use of face coverings at work? If you’re a manager or supervisor, and if the law or your workplace policy requires face coverings, the answer is yes. You should apply your policies uniformly and consistently for two good reasons: (1) to avoid any claim of favoritism or discrimination for disparate treatment and (2) to avoid third-party liability for failing to act with reasonable care, thus increasing the risk of passing the virus to others.

If you have any questions regarding your requirements as an employee or employer, call The Coppola Firm. Our team of experienced attorneys is here to guide you through this unprecedented time.