Excerpt From: HR Bartender
A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you a few websites that are curating COVID-19 resources. Always good information to have handy. This situation isn’t going away any time soon. I specifically wanted to find out some information about face masks and taking temperatures. I hear people talking about these two items all the time and thought it could be helpful to learn a little more.
I reached out to an attorney, a friend, and colleague of mine, with some of the legal questions related to these two topics. And thankfully she agreed to be interviewed. Carrie Cherveny is senior vice president of strategic client solutions for HUB International in their risk services division. She works closely with clients to identify compliance risks across the organization and develop responsive strategies and solutions that ensure compliance and further the overall organization goals, including health and welfare programs and employment practices liability. Some of you might remember that Carrie helped us answer a reader question about “HR Careers for Legal Professionals”.
While Carrie is a lawyer, please don’t forget that her comments should not be construed as legal advice or as pertaining to any specific factual situations. If you have specific detailed questions, they should be addressed directly with your friendly neighborhood labor attorney.
Carrie, thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. Let’s start with a question I’m sure you’re asked a lot. Can employers require that employees wear face masks while working?
[Cherveny] Yes. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a safe working environment for their employees. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued robust guidance and recommendations to assist employers with providing a safe working environment for employees. For example, the CDC includes on its employer webpage:
Critical infrastructure workers who have had an exposure but remain asymptomatic should adhere to the following practices prior to and during their work shift:
Pre-Screen: Employers should measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.
Regular Monitoring: As long as the employee doesn’t have a temperature or symptoms, they should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
Wear a Mask: The employee should wear a face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after last exposure. Employers can issue facemasks or can approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.
Social Distance: The employee should maintain 6 feet and practice social distancing as work duties permit in the workplace.
Disinfect and Clean Workspaces: Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment routinely.
Likewise, many states and municipalities are passing rules that require or strongly recommend that people wear masks in any public setting. For example, Palm Beach County, Florida has issued an Emergency Order regarding face masks which states in part that, ‘all other persons physically present in any public place in Palm Beach County are strongly urged to wear facial coverings as defined by the CDC.’
If an employer does require or suggest that employees wear face masks, are they required to supply them?