Update: On July 27, 2021, the CDC revised the masking guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals.
The CDC advised that those fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks. However, this guidance is superseded by any federal, state, or local law requiring masking. The CDC also says that businesses may set their own rules for operations and workplace guidance if they don’t violate government rules. But now, with the advent of COVID-19 variants, concerns about transmission remain prevalent.
What’s a business owner to do about a masking policy for employees and customers, clients, and patients?
Absent any government rules, the CDC essentially leaves policies on masking up to businesses. OSHA current policy requires employers to treat vaccinated and unvaccinated employees the same, but this policy is under review and could change.
The masking mandate has been lifted in many locations but remains in others. Businesses must stay up to date on government rules and follow them.
If you aren’t required to insist on masking, you may decide whether and to what extent you want them worn on your premises. Some options:
- Blanket requirement for masking for employees and customers. This policy is typical in medical offices even where government rules on masking have been lifted.
- Masking required for employees, but optional for customers. This policy is in use in many restaurants and stores where government rules on masking have been lifted.
- A posting on the door that masks are not required for customers who are fully vaccinated. This policy is in use in many retail stores where government rules on masking have been lifted.
- No masking requirements. Where government rules on masking have been lifted, some businesses do not impose any masking suggestions or mandates. They permit employees and customers to mask at their own discretion.
Setting a masking policy is one thing; enforcing it is another. There have been numerous incidents nationwide where customers in revolt against masking have verbally or physically expressed their opinion to the harm of employees.
Watch for “masking bullying” by employees trying to enforce a company’s masking policy and by customers refusing to follow company policy. The Customer Service Zone has some helpful suggestions on handling bullying and verbal abuse from and to customers that may be applicable to the enforcement of your masking policy.
Despite living with COVID-19 for more than a year and a half, there’s still a lot that’s unknown. With new variants being identified and the effectiveness of the different vaccines against them unclear, masking policy remains a challenge to businesses. What will you do?