To mask or not to mask…

Retaining Employees in the Midst of a Labor Crisis.
April 28, 2021
Meet Tamarah Martin, MS, SPHR, HRBP / Senior HR Consultant at Hubric Resources (You Can Also Add Transformational Leader, Mentor and Coach to The List)
May 24, 2021

To mask or not to mask…

As you know, the CDC has issued new guidance that allows employees in most industries to no longer wear facemasks or social distance if they have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and a growing number of states including: Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington State are following the CDC’s new guidance. Industries that still require facemasks and social distancing include: hospitals, doctor’s offices, long-term care facilities, and public transportation. 

This new guidance gives employers in the states that are following the CDC guidelines a new option of not requiring employees to wear facemasks or social distance should they wish to do so.  Please refer to the guidelines of your state and local Departments of Health for mask use guidelines for your specific area.

Employers Have Two Basic Options

With the new guidelines, employers essentially have two options:

Continue with current mask wearing and social distancing protocols or no longer require vaccinated employees to wear facemasks and social distance at work. 

Option #1 – employers are still permitted to require the use of facemasks and to social distance. Essentially, employers can simply continue with their current policy and procedures. If you plan to continue with your current policy, we still encourage you to communicate this information to your employees. 

For your convenience, we have included a sample memorandum that you can share with your staff if you plan to keep your current policy in place:

Option #2 – employees who have been fully vaccinated will have the option to not wear facemasks or social distance after they provide the organization with proof of vaccination.  With this option, we are recommending that employees show their CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card to HR or other company representative.  The company can then approve the employee to not wear a facemask or to social distance any longer.  Employees who do not share their vaccination record must continue to wear a facemask and social distance until your state/local municipalities eliminate their mask mandates. 

For your convenience, we have included a sample memorandum that you can use to communicate option 2 to your employees:

There are obviously pros and cons to either option and there will be organizations that will elect to do a hybrid of both options. 

Please keep the following in mind when making decisions for your organization:

  • Many employers are still weighing their options.  About half of the clients that we spoke with thus far plan to stick with their current policies and the other half are moving away from requiring facemasks for vaccinated employees. 
  • Fully vaccinated is defined as 14-days after a second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and 14-days after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • OSHA has yet to weigh in on the new CDC guidelines.  Although we expect OSHA to follow suit, their opinion is still an unknown at this point in time.
  • Workers’ Compensation liability is something to consider if you go with option 2 as an employer could be held liable if an employee can prove that they became ill from the workplace.
  • We are still discouraging most of our clients from mandating vaccinations.  Incentives are a better alternative to encourage staff to become vaccinated. 
  • Keep HIPAA, the ADA and the Civil Rights Act in mind when considering options for your workplace.  Closely held religious beliefs and certain disabilities may require an accommodation.
  • You could run the risk of losing employees with either option you chose, which is obviously a huge concern in today’s labor market.  With option 1, employees who are tired of wearing masks may opt to seek employment from an employer who does not require masks.  With option 2, employees who are not comfortable working at a place that does not require masks may opt to work at a place that does.  It is our opinion, however, that option 2 (not requiring masks) will be the lessor of the two evils from an employee relations perspective, especially as we approach the heat in the summer months.
  • Be sure to keep any records of employee vaccinations confidential.  We do not recommend copying an employee’s vaccination records; instead, simply create a spreadsheet that lists when an employee was fully vaccinated.
  • Remember, employers may still impose stricter regulations than the CDC guidelines.
  • Stay close with your employees over the next few weeks.  Be sure that tensions do not grow between employees on use of facemasks and social distancing. 

If you have any questions as to what you should do at your organization or seek further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me via email at: tom@hubricresources.com or call/text at: 610-334-6888.

Tom Hubric, President

Hubric Resources

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