As some businesses in Chicago and across the state consider cautiously reopening operations, employers should be mindful of the government mandates which remain in effect. The City of Chicago’s guidelines on the use of masks is largely consistent with the Illinois guidelines on this topic.
Illinois Governor Pritzker has ordered the use of face coverings or masks as protection in settings in which social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. This is consistent with CDC recommendations and supported by public health research. The Governor’s Executive Order provides that any individuals over age two must cover their noses and mouths with a mask or cloth face covering when in a public space and unable to maintain a six-foot social distance. This includes both indoor spaces, as well as outdoor public spaces where appropriate social distancing is not possible. Note that a face mask or covering is distinct from personal protective equipment (PPE) such as the equipment used by health care workers. PPE recommendations are specific to certain occupations and job tasks based on the relative hazards an employee faces. More information for businesses concerning the use of face coverings can be found in the State’s FAQs regarding face coverings.
While the order encourages all businesses (including non-profits and schools) to continue to facilitate work from home when possible, for businesses in which remote work is not feasible, employers must ensure that employees practice social distancing and otherwise wear face coverings when social distancing is not always possible. Any visitors (including customers or vendors) to businesses should also be encouraged to practice social distancing and wear face coverings. Face coverings are required for employees of all personal service facilities, such as salons, spas, or barber shops, as well as businesses that offer outdoor recreation, including child day camps and sports camps. The Illinois State Board of Education also recommends the use of face coverings for any individual entering a school.
Beyond mandating the use of masks, many employers are obligated under the order to actually provide face coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain a minimum six-foot social distance at all times. The provision of face masks to employees is required by any employer in an office building, as well as manufacturers and retail stores. These face covering mandates are in addition to the requirements regarding social distancing, limiting capacities on businesses, and providing other sanitizing products. In short, employers who have employees working on site should plan to provide those employees with face masks.
These mask requirements are imposed on those who are able to medically tolerate the wearing of a mask. Employers should be cognizant of not imposing the use of a mask on an employee who may not medically be able to tolerate wearing one for any extended period of time.
Some municipalities and certain industries have different rules regarding the use of masks beyond what is required in the Governor’s order. Please consult your Taft attorney for more information about your particular location or industry.
Please visit our COVID-19 Toolkit for all of Taft’s updates on the coronavirus.