Updated Face Covering Guidance for Oregon Businesses

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Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued an order this week making her earlier Mask, Face Shield, and Face Covering Guidance applicable statewide effective July 1, 2020.  Although the media has generally described the guidance as applying to all businesses, it is only required of the following covered businesses:

  • Grocery stores
  • Fitness-related organizations
  • Pharmacies
  • Public transit agencies and providers
  • Personal service providers
  • Restaurants, bars, breweries, brewpubs, wineries, tasting rooms, and distilleries
  • Retail stores, shopping centers, and malls
  • Ride sharing services
  • Certain indoor sports, swimming, spa, recreation, and entertainment or venue operators in Phase Two counties

The face covering guidance is recommended for other types of businesses.

Covered businesses must require their employees, contractors, and volunteers to wear masks, face shields or face coverings, unless an accommodation or exemption is required by law.  Face coverings are not required when eating or drinking or when the individual is not interacting with the public if six feet of distance can be maintained.  Employers must provide face coverings for their employees.  You can read about reasonably accommodating employees who cannot wear face coverings here.  Employees who refuse to wear a face covering but do not have a medical issue or disability may be disciplined (including terminated) for violation of a workplace rule.

Covered businesses must also require their customers and visitors to wear masks, face shields, or face coverings unless the customers are eating or drinking or engaging in an activity that makes face coverings not feasible (e.g., strenuous physical exercise, singing) if social distancing is maintained.  It is recommended but not required that businesses provide free disposable face coverings for customers or visitors who do not have one and post signs about the requirements in languages commonly spoken by customers and visitors.

All businesses should be prepared to provide an accommodation to members of the public who cannot wear face coverings as a result of a medical condition or disability.  If a customer states that they cannot wear a face covering due to a medical condition or disability, the business should offer alternative accommodations if available (e.g., providing a sanitized face shield if practical or providing curbside service).  The business should not challenge the customer on whether they actually have a medical condition or disability that makes wearing a face covering impossible or difficult.  Accept the customer at their word.

The updated guidance also requires that individuals visiting indoor spaces open to the public wear face coverings unless they are 12 years of age or under or have a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing one. Indoor spaces that are accessible to the public, regardless of whether they are publicly or privately owned, must comply with this rule. Such spaces include building lobbies, elevators, and meetings rooms outside of private homes where people gather for social, civil, cultural, or religious purposes. Those responsible for indoor spaces open to the public must require that their visitors comply with these rules, unless the activities being performed make face coverings not feasible and six feet of distance can be maintained. As in other public settings, accommodations must be made for those with disabilities.

We recommend that all businesses train their employees about how to handle interactions with customers and the public, including how to accommodate customers who say they cannot wear face coverings due to a medical condition or disability.  Accommodations to consider include asking the customer to shop online, offering a personal shopping service while the customer waits outside, offering use of a face shield, or asking the customer to maintain a greater social distance than six feet while shopping.  A customer who refuses to wear a face covering but who does not have a medical condition or disability should be told that they must leave.  If the customer refuses to leave, the business should follow its standard practices for dealing with trespassers, including contacting the police.  Do not risk a physical altercation.

Here is the sample sign about face coverings recommended by the Oregon Health Authority.

Key Contributors

Laura E. Rosenbaum
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