Some city and state governments across the country have made wearing masks in public mandatory. Now, businesses are finding they also need to develop policies for face coverings.
"No pun intended but there’s no one size fits all here. Employers need to be looking at the state and local laws to determine whether masks are mandatory. I know that several states have mandatory mask requirements in public spaces, so of course they’ll want to look at those laws to make sure they're complying with them," says Amber Clayton, Knowledge Center Director for the Society for Human Resources Management.
Clayton says employers will also need to consider employees who may not be able to wear a mask, whether it be for medical or other reasons.
"Employers may have to potentially provide a reasonable accommodation in those situations. That might look like allowing the person to work from home, taking leave or modifying their workspaces where they're working within an area that is maybe not as much public facing," says Clayton.
For medical reasons, employers could require a doctor's note. Whether it's an employee handbook or company-wide email, employers should have some type of documentation so employees and any customers coming into the office are aware of expectations when it comes to wearing face coverings. Valerie Keels, who heads up her HR department at Gavi in Washington, DC, has developed a mask-wearing policy for her office.
"The building has imposed those restrictions, as well, in the common areas so when people come into the building they have to wear a mask. When they go into the elevator they have to wear a mask. So it's just consistent with what's going in the building," says Keels.
Keels has what they call a "Code Red" which means people can come into the office if they register online. It helps them keep track of the number of people in the office space. Once they get to the office, their temperature is taken and they're given a mask to wear for when it's needed.
When you're in an enclosed office space, you can take off your mask. "And even when you're at your own work space because we're also respecting social distancing," says Keels.
As for enforcing a mask policy, some businesses could come across people who disagree with a face covering policy.
"Employers have the responsibility to keep the workplaces safe for their employees and if this is something that's required and the employee refused to wear it, then there needs to be something in place to address that - whether it's sending the employee home or providing leave, or making modifications to the worksite," says Clayton.
It's important for employers to work with people and their individual situations before resorting to reprimands. Keeping the lines of communication open so everyone's working environment is safe.