Companies can nonetheless make you put on one

Indiana’s nationwide mask mandate ends Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean Hoosiers don’t have to wear masks in everyday life.

Governor Eric Holcomb announced on March 23 that the state’s mask mandate expires on April 6, although masks are still recommended. Face-covering remains mandatory in all state buildings, and local governments like Marion County can continue to impose their own masking mandates.

But also outside of these places and in counties or cities without a mask mandate, Hoosiers will continue to meet requirements in private companies, which, according to experts, is protected by law.

Why face masks are still recommended

As of Friday, over 1.1 million Hoosiers had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to an Indiana Department of Health dashboard.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks in public when meeting with unvaccinated individuals from more than one household and visiting an unvaccinated individual who is at high risk for severe disease Disease or death.

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This is partly because health professionals are still learning exactly how and for how long vaccinations affect the spread of the virus.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced on March 25th that Marion County’s mask mandate will continue beyond April 6th.

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Dr. Virginia Caine, Marion County’s director of public health, supported the decision.

“We cannot be lulled into a false sense of security,” Caine said during a press conference on March 25th. “We can see the finish line, but we haven’t crossed it yet. Now is the time to dig deep and sprint to the finish line.”

Companies can enforce mask guidelines

Major Indiana retailers, such as Whole Foods Market and Walmart, have already announced that they will continue to need facial coverage even after the state mandate expires.

IndyStar reached out to a sample of local companies that wanted to continue to enforce a face mask policy. These companies include Shapiros Delicatessen, Cafe Patachou, and Strange Brew.

And according to Steve Sanders, professor of constitutional law at Indiana University’s Mason School of Law, these companies have the right to do so. Sanders said a fundamental principle of American law is that one person cannot be forced to do business with another person.

“You can’t make me sell you something if I don’t want to sell it to you,” Sanders previously told IndyStar. “There are many examples where companies reject people and are allowed to reject them all the time.”

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For example, Sanders said, restaurants with dress codes can turn away people who don’t adhere to the code.

Regarding the often-proclaimed anti-mask argument that America is a “free country,” Sanders said the principle typically refers to the ability of government – not private companies – to regulate a person’s behavior. Just as a person can regulate who enters their home, a company can regulate who enters their property.

Exceptions and accommodations

The exceptions to this rule play a role in civil rights issues.

“The law has identified certain areas where we say you can’t refuse to do business based solely on your race or your religion,” Sanders said.

When it comes to face coverings, companies must also consider people with disabilities or medical conditions that prohibit them from wearing a face mask. Examples of such people are people with asthma and other respiratory diseases, people with post-traumatic stress or anxiety disorders, and people with autism.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that these people can work within a company without masking.

Peter Berg, director of technical assistance at the Great Lakes American Disabilities Act Center, previously told IndyStar that ADA law has always allowed companies to make requirements based on legitimate safety concerns. For example, a kayak shop may not allow someone who cannot swim out of concern for their safety to participate.

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When it comes to face masks, companies rely on recommendations from the CDC and local health departments, and in some cases are required to adhere to local mandates. That makes the requirement for face masks a legitimate request, but Berg said companies must continue to take reasonable precautions if someone with a disability or illness cannot wear a mask.

For example, a company may offer delivery or pick-up, but Berg cautioned that such adjustments must be “the same” and stated that waiting five days for food delivery or collection would not be acceptable accommodation. The best course of action is for companies to clearly publish their policies and work with customers with restrictions, he said.

Contact IndyStar reporter Elizabeth DePompei at 317-444-6196 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @edepompei.

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