Several states have abandoned Coronavirus lockdown rules, especially mask mandates, including Texas, Florida, Mississippi and South Carolina, and more are getting ready to do so.
However, workplace mask requirements still exist at the federal level, and as we learned recently, OSHA is stepping up its enforcement efforts, and is including among its targets warehousing operations. (See Page One article).
Can employers still require employees to wear masks in those states where they have been dropped by state government? The answer is yes, according to attorney Dana Berber of the Akerman law firm.
“Any employer looking to continue face covering mandates in its workplace can look directly to OSHA for support,” Berber points out.
However, keep in mind that OSHA’s most recent guidance cautions employers not to implement measures that would single-out employees who are not vaccinated, such as requiring that only unvaccinated employees wear masks, for example.
He adds that continuing to require face coverings also could end up reducing liability for employers, who have been facing pandemic-related lawsuits filed by attorneys on behalf of employees.
These cases often involve employer liability and claims of wrongful death, negligence, violation of OSHA standards, and failure to enforce safety measures. In cases where employers intentionally violated federal, state or local standards, employees can sue in state or federal court instead of bringing worker’s comp claims, Berber explains.
He says that if workers refuse to comply with mask mandates, employers can discipline and even terminate them in the name of keeping co-workers and the public safe from the spread of Covid 19.