PHMDC Emergency Order #8: Clarifications

We have some important clarifications of the mask requirements under Public Health Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) Emergency Order #8. During the Madison Chamber of Commerce’s Lunch (UP)date: Moving Forward with Forward Dane on July 9, 2020 (click link to see the webinar video), Chamber President Zach Brandon and various members of the PHMDC leadership provided important clarifying information about the mask requirements:

  • Employees must wear masks “whenever they could come in contact with others,” regardless of the distance between them. This means that even if employees are 6 or more feet apart in an office, workplace, or warehouse, they must wear masks because they could come in contact with one another. (See minutes 10:30 – 15:30)
  • If employees occupy individual offices or are alone in a conference or other room with a closed door and close the door, they may remove their masks. Organizations should establish a policy that if an employee’s or conference room’s door is closed, other employees should knock and request entry, then the employee inside can “mask up” and grant the other employee access.
  • Employees in cubicles need to wear a mask at all times, regardless of social distancing because they may come in contact with others by moving around their workspace or while others are walking past. The same holds true for employees who work significant distances apart in a warehouse or manufacturing facility, as they may come in contact with others at any time. (See minutes 10:30 – 15:30)
  • Employers must provide each employee with at least one (1) mask that covers the employee’s mouth and nose snugly. PHMDC anticipates this will be a cloth mask. If the employee loses or damages the mask, it is the employee’s responsibility to replace the mask. An employee may also wear their own mask if it satisfies the fit and coverage requirements by snugly covering the nose and mouth. Importantly, the PHMDC staff noted that face shields are not a substitute for masks, as they have been shown to provide insufficient protection. (See minutes 16:00 – 18:00)
  • If an employee indicates that they are unable to wear a mask due to having an ADA-qualifying disability, the employee must provide medical documentation to support that request. Then, following the customary ADA Interactive Dialogue Process, the employer and employee should engage in discussion to determine a reasonable accommodation. It is not a reasonable accommodation to be in the workplace without a mask. A reasonable accommodation may be to allow the employee to work remotely, to assign new job duties or location, or to provide Family Medical Leave. (See minutes 33:00 – 34:00)
  • If an employee refuses to comply with the mask order for other than an ADA-qualifying reason, the employer should remind staff of the PHMDC Order. If the employee still refuses, the employer may send the employee home without pay and follow the normal process to discipline an employee who fails to comply with your workplace rules. (See minutes 18:30 – 19:30)
  • If a customer/client refuses to wear a mask, a business owner may initially ask if the person is unable to wear a mask due to a disability and then must engage in an interactive discussion of accommodation of policies. This does not mean the customer can enter without a mask, it means that the business owner and customer develop a reasonable accommodation and provide alternate service such as bringing the product or food curbside, provide it to go, deliver the product to their home, etc. If the customer declines the reasonable alternative, that satisfies the interactive process and the business can refuse entry. In the unfortunate event that the discussion becomes confrontational, the business may contact authorities. (See minutes 24:00 -29:30)

The Lake Effect team will continue to monitor important updates such as these from Dane County and other counties across the state. Please keep watching for blogs and emails from us for important legal updates and HR best practices. Contact us at or 1-844-333-5253.

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