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Employer COVID-19 Playbook Guidance for Enforcing Mask Requirements

The State of California released a COVID-19 Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening. Here are some of the important updates from the playbook on an issue that members may be dealing with today. The State considers the requirement of facemasks in the workplace and elsewhere important enough to include a section entitled “Guidance for Employers and Workers in Enforcing Mask Requirements.”

The section addresses the situation when workers encounter coworkers or members of the public who are not wearing a mask and minimizing the risk of workplace violence.

The guidance recommends that employers instruct workers on how to handle these types of situations before they arise. The guidance advises employees not to approach coworkers or members of the public, such as customers, in order to enforce mask requirements. Instead, the guidance suggests that employees report such situations to supervisors. In turn, the guidance advises supervisors to consult with their human resources departments in the event that a supervisor is unsure as to how to handle the situation.

In addition, the guidance recommends that employers interact in “a calm voice … and communicate with posture and expression that the person will be respected.” The guidance suggests using phrases such as, “If you don’t have a face covering, we’d be happy to provide one (if available)” and “Following the guidelines (on face coverings or distancing) can protect you and everyone else, so we ask that you follow them.”

Finally, the guidance notes that “limited circumstances” may exist in which an employer may need to engage employees or customers who claim health-related reasons for not being able to wear a mask. The guidance suggests that employers engage in a process with these persons to decide if an accommodation exists that is effective in maintaining workplace safety.

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