Face Covering Mandate & Obligations Business Owners Need to Consider

by | June 29, 2020

Is your business following the face covering mandate & COVID-19 regulations? As businesses navigate through the twists and turns presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be hard to keep up with changing rules & regulations. Along with the requirements presented in Phase II of the Safe Start Plan, Gov. Inslee issued a statewide face covering order, requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces such as stores, offices, and restaurants. Business leaders who have just begun to transition their businesses to Phase II now face the question of how the new order affects their new reopening plans.

Business owners have voiced confusion and concerns over the changing regulations, and if they’re following all the necessary steps. You’ll likely find yourself pondering a number of questions as you consider opening up shop and letting employees work on-site. Here are some FAQs to keep in mind:

Is everyone required to wear a face covering under the new order?

Yes, effective June 26, 2020, every person in Washington must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth when in any indoor or outdoor public setting. There are some exceptions to keep in mind. Individuals may remove their face coverings in public settings if they are able to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from non-household members, under the following circumstances:

  • While eating or drinking at a food establishment;
  • While exercising indoors or outdoors;
  • While in an outdoor public area;
  • When any party to a communication is deaf or hard of hearing and not wearing a face covering is essential to communication;
  • While obtaining a service that requires temporary removal of the face covering;
  • When necessary to confirm the individual’s identity; and
  • When federal or state law prohibits or requires the removal of a face covering.

Some individuals are also exempt from the face covering requirement, including:

  • Anyone with a disability that makes it hard for them to wear or remove a face covering;
  • Anyone who is deaf and moves their face and mouth to communicate;
  • Anyone who has been advised by a medical professional to not wear a face covering because of personal health issues; and
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or unable to remove the face covering without help.

What does the face covering mandate require of my business?

If your private workplace is open to the public, then it is considered a public setting and all persons must wear a face covering or mask. However, even if a private business does not hold itself open to the public, employees in the workplace are still required to wear face coverings as required by the Department of Labor & Industries Coronavirus Hazard Considerations for Employers. All employees are required to wear a cloth facial covering, except when working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site, or when the job has no in-person interaction.

What is the penalty for not wearing a face covering?

Businesses choosing not to comply may put other workers and customers at risk of contracting COVID-19 on business property, and can be subject to fines, citations, closures, losing their business license, and to investigations and penalties by the Department of Health (DOH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) for violating safety and health standards. Additionally, if employees contract the virus at work, it may qualify as a workers’ compensation claim. Businesses should have posted signage strongly encouraging customers and clients to wear cloth face coverings.

Can a business owner require masks upon entry?

As of July 7, businesses must require customers and visitors to wear a face covering. If a customer or visitor isn’t wearing a face covering, business owners can provide accommodations such as curb-side pick-up, delivery or virtual meeting options. Some businesses have reported instances of customers presenting an ADA “face mask exempt” card, however these are fake.

What do I need to do to keep my business compliant?

At Equinox, our team can assist you with determining measures your business needs to take to remain compliant, how to handle situations where employees are violating policy, and policy development for face coverings and other COVID-19 regulations. Contact us today to get started.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general information and should not be viewed as legal advice. You should talk with counsel familiar with your unique business needs before taking or refraining from any action.