Face Masks: Do Employees Need Them?

(Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash)

There’s little to say about the unexpected nature of this year that hasn’t been said already. With the general upheaval of the world has come to a mandatory new fashion trend: face masks. While public opinion is primarily split on their effectiveness at preventing the spread of disease, the statistics seem to favor wearing them. Wearing face masks, combined with other preventative measures like social distancing and frequent hand washing, significantly reduces the risk of spreading disease.

As heartening as it is to know that face masks do the job when it comes to keeping sickness at bay, many employers are still torn between forcing their employees to wear them and making their own decisions about it. Even though wearing face masks may now be one of the most important public health measures workers can take when interacting with community members, logistical issues arise once employers get involved. Read on to learn a little more about both sides of the debate.

The customer is comes first

Some people argue that employees should wear Hygiene Masks to represent best the brand of the company they’re working for while they’re on the clock. Letting employees take these matters into their own hands may cause more trouble than it’s worth during this unprecedented time. Seeing as it’s standard for health departments to implement rules regarding food safety, keeping, and consumption, it would make sense for higher-ups in a company to establish similar, uniform rules. However, if companies decide to take responsibility for enforcing this rule, they’ll also be responsible for informing their employees how to correctly put on, wear, and dispose of a face mask. Not only that, but employers will be on the hook for providing these masks to their employees. “Employers that opt to provide employees with single-use coverings must provide a sufficient supply to enable employees to replace them as needed, which may be more than once a day,” says Devjani Mishra and Alka Ramchandani-Raj, New York-based and Los Angeles-based public health lawyers, respectively.

It’s not the company’s responsibility

However, the argument against this is that it’s not on employers to foot the bill, or responsibility for that matter, for the masks. The language of business reopening orders varies widely from state to state, ranging from mandatory face mask-wearing for all employees in the state to strategically-crafted loopholes that give employers the freedom to choose. Regardless of whether a business decides to enforce this rule or not, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does require employers to pay for this personal protective equipment (PPE).

Another tricky loophole arises here, though. Some employers argue that if employees wear the masks out of the public eye, they aren’t obligated to pay for them, as moving from a public to a private location allowed these face masks to transcend the status of work equipment.

No matter what side of the debate you fall on, it doesn’t hurt to take precautions not just for you but also for the people around you. Keep washing your hands, and thanks for reading!