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Employers must ensure workers are masked

October 30, 2020
Acting on a fabricated tip, Crystal Lake police in late October visited a new-car dealership there to confirm that employees were not wearing face masks. They were. But even if they weren’t, it’s not the employees who would have faced fines.
 
The episode serves as a reminder that it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure adherence to the Illinois administrative rule added this year which mandates mask-wearing in businesses that are "open to the public." Employers who do not enforce the mask mandate can face a fine of up to $2,500.
 
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s emergency order issued in August takes a three-step approach to gain compliance with the mandate he signed in May requiring masks to be worn inside all public places. First, businesses will receive a written warning for failing to comply with the order. If they don’t comply, customers would be asked to leave the business for public health reasons. If that still does not work, businesses can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and receive a fine of $75 to $2,500.
 
Studies have shown that wearing masks can reduce the spread of aerosols by 85%.
 
The governor said he does not want to punish regular people for not wearing masks, which is why he applied his rule to business owners and not individuals. 
 
There are ways to convince employees to willingly wear masks, as well as solid strategies for settling mask-related issues between co-workers and management. Vanessa Nelson, author of "101 Costly HR Mistakes," said she advises all her clients to make wearing a mask part of the official company dress code.
 
"It’s just like saying an employee must wear a name badge," she said.
 
Nelson said communications can’t be overdone when it comes to mask policies or expectations around personal behavior. She suggested that HR professionals send out written guidance that asks all employees to sign off on mask-wearing requirements.
 
Employers also should give employees with bona fide medical issues information about opting out of a mask mandate.
 
"It is important for employers to consider ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements when dealing with employees who state they can’t wear masks due to medical issues," Nelson said. "In most cases, medical documentation may be required. 
 
"Additionally, employers should develop, discuss and distribute a civility-and-respect-in-the-workplace policy to ensure that employees are kind to one another and that verbal communications remain civil at all times."
 
In businesses that are open to the public, individuals must wear face coverings when they are unable to maintain a 6-foot social distance from others. Businesses also can be subject to penalties for hosting gatherings of more than 50 individuals.
 
Dealerships and other "public" places must enforce mask-wearing. Conversely, a manufacturing facility, generally speaking, is not bound by the dictate because it is unlikely the general public is milling around its premises.
 
 

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