Should Customers Be Required To Wear Masks At Your Establishment?

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Businesses all over the US are opening up as states start lifting restrictions and Americans start venturing back in public places. This leaves many questions in regards to face coverings unclear. For one, should customers be required to wear masks at your establishment? This post will analyze how numerous chains across the US are regulating face masks, and whether business owners are legally obliged to require customers wear masks.

The largest businesses, such as Walmart and Costco, have mandated face masks and temperature-measurements for workers, but they only recommended customers wear them. These chains also encouraged social distancing at their stores in order to slow the spread of the virus. However, Costco recently went on to introduce compulsory face masks for all customers. 

  • All shoppers entering Costco will have to wear a face mask or be denied service. Many videos are going viral of customers refused service and/or shoppers shaming other shoppers for not wearing face masks.

The CEO of Costco said “We are aware our shoppers might find the new face mask requirement to be inconvenient or object to it, but with the added circumstances we prefer safety over inconvenience. This is not a matter of personal choice, because the mask doesn’t only protect the wearer but it protects other people as well”. Costco is the largest supermarket chain to require compulsory face masks and the company defends its decision by citing safety for workers and other people over personal comfort.

Can You Refuse Service Legally?

What happens if the customers refuse to wear masks? Can they be denied service at your business? Doesn’t it infringe on our rights as American citizens to be denied service due to not wearing a mask? Can customers sue your business for refusing them service? The answer: Yes, as a business owner, you’re legally entitled to deny service to customers for not wearing a mask.

The legal premise is that, the business is essentially your private property and, you dictate the rules on your property. All private companies reserve the right to turn away customers as they see fit, and this gives permission to large chains such as Costco to mandate face masks and refuse service to all non-compliant customers. In essence, you can ban all customers without face masks from entering your business establishment and not be held legally liable.

From a legal perspective, you must not  discriminate against customers. Lawyers recommend enforcing your guidelines in a non-discriminatory manner because, even though you retain the right to allow or refuse customers, you should always judge customers on an individual basis. For instance, you may have customers who adhere to the Islamic or Sikh faiths, who refuse to wear masks as face mask can’t fit around their beard. This means that although they would want to wear the mask, they can’t, as it infringes on their religious rights.

There is a lot of misunderstanding as to what rights we have here. The constitution will not protect shoppers if they’re refused service at a supermarket. Supermarkets have historically implemented a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” standard, which ban people without adequate clothing from shopping at their stores. Similar principles apply for face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Supermarkets and retailers have taken other measures to prevent the spread of the virus in their establishment. Many of them installed Plexiglas dividers at the cash registers in order to physically separate the cashiers and the customers. They also added social distancing markers to keep a 6-foot distance between customers. Supermarkets regularly measure worker’s temperatures before allowing them to go to work. Walmart has even gone as far as allowing only 20 customers per 100 sq ft. which meant they were usually operating at 20% capacity.

How Smaller Chains Are Handling The Crisis

Smaller chain stores around the country have varying rules when it comes to face mask regulations. In some cases, customers have been refused even from stores that don’t require face masks. For instance, Nugget Market, a chain of 15 stores located in California, refuses service to all customers who attempt to enter without a face mask.

A Tennessee based chain offers a creative solution where they sell face masks at the entry for customers who don’t have face masks – or they refuse service. Smart & Final, a California-based chain with over 300 stores, offers customers the ability to purchase a face mask at their stores directly before entering the premises.