Hopefully, your workplace looks nothing like back to school at this Georgia high school. (More on that here.)
Instead, your business should have a return-to-work plan that includes social distancing (not pictured here) and mandatory face masks for employees (also not pictured here).
And, speaking of face masks, the CDC last week updated its guidance for wearing facemasks. There are a few items worth highlighting.
First, and this is nothing new, but the CDC endorses face masks as an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. This is called source control. This recommendation is based on what we know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, paired with emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that shows masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), so the use of masks is particularly important in settings where people are close to each other or where social distancing is difficult to maintain. CDC’s recommendations for masks will be updated as new scientific evidence becomes available.
Additionally, don’t accept substitutes for masks. For example, the CDC does not currently recommend the use of face shields as a substitute for masks. Consequently, you may wish to reconsider face shields as a reasonable accommodation for someone with a disability like asthma who cannot wear a face mask at work. Similarly, wearing gloves won’t compensate for a missing face mask. (At the other end of the spectrum, masks are not appropriate substitutes in workplaces where surgical masks or respirators are recommended or required and available.)
Since this can all be a little confusing, the CDC also has a single-page guide on how to wear and safely remove a face mask.
Yet, there are situations where a mask may be unnecessary. For example, individuals who work outdoors in socially-distanced settings may be able to perform the essential functions of the job without a mask without creating any direct threat to themselves or others. But, wearing a mask is no substitute for social distancing.
If your workplace already has this face mask thing under control, good for you. But, maybe you have questions about oh, I don’t know, EEOC mediation! In that case, please join me for the next Zoom HR Lunchtime Happy Hour Spectacular on Friday, August 14, 2020, at Noon EDT. Along with several members of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District office, we are going to explain both the EEOC’s mediation program and the new EEOC Mediation Pilot Program. If you’re currently facing an EEOC Charge of Discrimination or just clutching your pearls because you expect that one may be coming down the pike soon, please join us!
You can register here.