Are Businesses Allowed to Reject Customers Who Aren’t Wearing Masks?

As establishments across the world slowly ease back into their operations and as more businesses open their doors to the general public, there’s one aspect that they’re having a bit of a challenge: “Do we have the right to refuse entry to patrons not wearing masks?”.

The short answer is yes.

In the US, policies vary from city to city and from each state and it’s understandable if this is causing some degree of confusion. Some business owners have been proactive enough and decided that they’ll require their patrons to wear masks to protect their employees and more importantly to protect their patrons as well.

This goes against the belief of some people who are making personal decisions about when and where to wear masks.

Last month, we witnessed a video gone viral of an altercation between an employee at Trader Joe’s and one of its customers. Jesse, the employee, approached Genevieve Peters, the client, and asked why the latter was not wearing any masks. Jesse further said: “I am not here to question what you believe in. These are the rules. I am just asking you kindly to wear the mask.”

Ms. Peters, who was recording the entire exchange, continued to refuse to wear one despite the warning and even said: “We are in America here, Land of the free.” Then she turned her camera on other shoppers, who were less than amused: “Look at all of these sheep that are here, all wearing this mask that is dangerous for them.”

Other cases were not as peaceful as this one. A Target employee in Van Nuys, California, ended up with a broken left arm after helping to remove two customers who refused to wear masks.

A cashier told a man refusing to wear a mask that he could not buy a pack of cigars at a convenience store in Perkasie, Pennsylvania. He punched her three times in the face.

In San Antonio, a man who was told he could not board a public bus without a mask shot a passenger, the police said. The victim was hospitalized, and the gunman was arrested. Lastly, in a confrontation that turned deadly, the security guard at a Family Dollar store in Flint, Michigan, was shot and killed after insisting that a customer put on a mask.

Who’s Enforcing this rule?

This is indeed an important question. However, what is there to enforce anyway? Let’s talk about that.

As mentioned earlier, rules and policies regarding what’s required if you go outside differ from each city and state and this is what’s causing trouble. Naturally, if you are planning to reopen your business, your employee’s and customer’s safety is of utmost priority, right? So, what do we know so far to prevent the transmission of this virus? Yes, that’s right. You must wear a mask. As a responsible business owner, this is the first thing that you would require even if there’s no concrete government policy that exists to tell your customers to do so.

Think of it as an extreme version of a “no short, no shoe, no entry, no service” policy, or like a “no smoking inside the premises” policy. Those have been existing for the longest time now and no one’s ever bothered to make a fuss about it.

To address the question of who’s going to enforce this “no mask, no entry” policy, governments on the city and state level should pass legislation making this mandatory and give business owners the power to enforce this rule. New York and Colorado have already done so and that’s great because it gives business owners the right to refuse entry of a customer who doesn’t follow this simple rule.

The caveat is that that there are exceptions to this rule. A customer who is physically unable to wear a mask would be "difficult to turn away" because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination to people with disabilities in many areas of public life, including retail stores. In this case, a customer can sue the business for the right to enter without a mask. Many stores exempt children and those who are physically unable to wear masks from mask requirements.

Considering that this is a matter of public safety, this may not be an “unreasonable request” and could easily be accommodated, right?

Aside from the government’s help, it’s also equally important to continue to educate people. It seems that some are refusing to wear masks because it’s uncomfortable to wear and are not aware that masks have been recommended by public health officials as a keyway to diminish the spread of the infectious coronavirus. If there is a need to cite a study so that these people will believe its efficacy then well, I guess we don’t have a choice. It’s a small price to pay to keep everyone safe.

Lastly, as a business owner and only if you can accommodate, giving out free masks to your patrons if you see one who’s not wearing any is a small gesture but goes a long way. He/she might have just left his/hers at home and you know, it gets frustrating if you must go back for something when you’re already there.

The new normal takes a lot of getting used to and we understand that it’s frustrating and confusing, and downright making everyone uncomfortable but aren’t all beginnings like this? The sooner we accept the fact that this pandemic is here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future), the sooner we can move on and focus on coming up with the necessary measures to curb the spread of this contagious virus.

If you have a business, Kara Supply can help you with your PPE needs, especially masks, gloves, protective gowns. We have been catering to hundreds of establishments, big and small, and we’d be more than happy to help your business get up and running. Our expert team of sales advisors will be there to provide you valuable insights on what other businesses have been doing to practice safety in their workplaces and establishments. As your business reopens, we wish you good luck and all the best!