On July 8, 2020, the Governor issued the expected Executive Order regarding changes to the enforcement of face coverings. The Order applies to retail stores with over 50,000 square feet of shopping space, eating establishments, bars, tasting rooms, and lodging operations and accommodations in certain areas of Maine (the Counties of Cumberland, Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Waldo, and York, and the Municipalities of Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Brewer, and Lewiston). The Order requires these entities to “implement measures requiring customers to wear face coverings.” It permits the entities to deny entry or service to customers who fail to comply with the Order.
It is important to note that the Order does not apply to the use of face coverings by employees. However, in complying with this Order, covered entities may very well experience pushback or refusal by customers as well as potentially violent or threatening behavior toward employees. These situations could lead to workers’ compensation claims. For instance, if an employee has to confront a customer who refuses to wear a face mask, that could result in an assault or stress claim that may be compensable.
Therefore, covered entities are strongly encouraged to determine immediately how to enforce the Order. This includes determining whether specific employees or managers will be designated to do so and training those individuals in handling non-compliant customers. In addition, those employees or managers must also be trained to properly respond to customers who refuse compliance due to medical or other situations so that customers’ protected rights against discrimination are not inadvertently violated. The Order takes effect today, July 8, so immediate attention to this is necessary.