Can I Be Fired for Not Wearing a Mask at Work?

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The rise of COVID-19 has led to all kinds of work related questions. Many health officials have come to the realization that certain measures may be necessary in order to help continue to prevent the spread of this virus to others. Of particular note has been the use of the face mask. Face masks have long been used in varied contexts. Cancer patients are advised to wear one when they are undergoing certain medical treatments. The new virus has led to the assertion that the general public should put on a mask that covers their nose, mouth and chin when they are indoors shopping or at work.

General Information

In general, depending on where you live, you can be asked to put on a face mask at work. If you do not put on a face mas, the employer has the right to fire you. An employer has the right to set policies at your workplace. Nearly all states allow for a policy at work known as the at-will employment doctrine. This means the employer can dictate what conditions the employee faces at work. As such, they are free to implement any policies they see it for their workers.

Mask Refusal Rights

While it is true that an employer has the potential right to fire an employee if they refuse to comply with this policy, there are certain conditions where this may not apply. An employee who believes these issues have arisen at work should contact their employer and see if they can be resolved. The employee may have the right to refuse to follow this directive. They can also appeal this issue when imposed at work and seek legal counsel if the employer refuses to meet these criteria.

One thing to bear in mind is you can refuse to use the mask at work if the mask makes it harder to meet the requirements of your job. Many people have basic things they need to be able to get done at work such putting things in a certain order, answering the phone and responding to consumer requests. A mask might make it harder to see specific details that can distinguish one item from the next. The mask might also make it harder to speak clearly to a client. In that case, it is best to speak with your employer as soon as possible about this issue.

Another reason why you might be able to refuse to wear a mask at work is if the creates what is known as a workplace hazard. As an employee, you have the right to be safe at work at all times. A mask may interfere with your sense of smell when you’re at the workplace. If you have a workplace where you work with hazardous items that may emit a dangerous scent, in that case you should speak up as soon as possible. The employer must ensure that you are safe when you’re at their worksite.

Some people also may have medical conditions that make wearing a mask worse for them. For example, if you have a documented history of asthma, the mask might interfere with your breathing. In doing so, it might trigger a dangerous asthma attack. You should contact your doctor and find out what is required to get a medical exemption. If you have feelings of claustrophobia or a similar anxiety issue, you might be able to get a medical exemption that means you don’t have to wear one at work. If you are denied this right, contacting a skilled lawyer may be able to help.

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