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YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS | Can a business force me to wear a mask?

The short answer is that the decision is being left to those who run the operation. We're all familiar with “No Shirt. No Shoes. No Service.” It is well established that a restaurant can refuse you service if you cannot meet this policy.
davidbetras032020
Attorney David Betras

We've all been greeted by that sign at the entrance of a fast-food restaurant.

You know, “No Shirt. No Shoes. No Service.” 

It is well established that a restaurant can refuse you service if you cannot meet this policy. We all accept that as a society. But due to COVID-19, are we going to see masks added to the list? 

In Ohio, masks are generally required of the employers and employees in the workplace unless otherwise not advisable or for medical reasons. The Department of Health strongly recommends masks for all customers, clients, visitors, or guests who can “safely wear them."

The caveat for “safely” wearing a mask was created to protect people who could suffer negative medical impacts by the recommendation. Health department examples of these medical conditions include severe asthma or breathing issues, hearing aids, autism and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Despite published guidelines placing requirements in the workplace, it can still be confusing for people to ascertain whether facial covers are a mandatory requirement for non-employees.

The short answer is that it can vary from location to location, and the decision is being left to those who run the operations.

The levels of mask restrictions in businesses include mandatory, recommended and non-mandatory. 

For example, one location where mask use is mandatory can be seen in our local courts. Many judges have issued orders requiring all individuals to wear masks when entering the courthouses. This is an example of extensive mask requirements being used to protect the overall public health. 

Next, larger corporately owned retail and grocery outlets recommend shoppers use face covers but they are not making it a requirement for entry. Stores like Walmart and Giant Eagle have each issued public statements asking patrons to wear masks if possible. These companies have not issued mandates on masks.

Since Ohio government and health guidelines are not requiring customers to wear masks as a prerequisite for service, whether a mask is a mandatory requirement is left to the discretion of each individual business owner. 

While businesses cannot refuse service based on discrimination for race, national origin, or disability, masks do not fall within any of these categories. Ohio businesses, and generally all businesses, have the right to refuse service to anyone absent a legal exception.

A business requiring a mask is not any different than a fancy dinner club making men wear a jacket or sport coat before being seated at a table. 

This mask issue will not be something we debate over forever.

Gov. Mike DeWine has understood and publicly commented on the mask divide: They are necessary to slow the virus's spread. Even though the virus will eventually subside, businesses are well within their right to refuse service if you do not wear one. 

Just let the mask or mask-less free market dictate your buying decisions. 




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