We would like to introduce a COVID-19 policy to make wearing a mask in the office mandatory when it is required by public health order. Can we do this?
To require an employee to wear a face mask may be a lawful and reasonable direction to enable employers to follow any government health directives that apply to their business. If there is no government health directive requiring employees to weak face masks in the office, for a mandatory mask policy to be reasonable, employers must take care that any mandatory mask requirements are given proper consideration to the particularities of their workplace, the risk of exposure to COVID-19, and any medical exemptions evidenced by employees. For example, employers will need to consider the type of people visiting the workplace, whether there is an increased risk that they are vulnerable to COVID-19, and whether alternative measures could be implemented to protect staff, such as social distancing.
If an employee has a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a face mask, and the employer fails to acknowledge this and/or consider reasonable adjustments, any mandate to wear masks in the office at all times may expose an employer to liability for discrimination. Therefore, such a policy would need to have a clear exemptions process that allows employers to determine whether employees are exempt from wearing masks due to medical reasons.