The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, April 06, 2021 1:00 am

Small firms cautious

Some owners keep masks, prioritize safety

JOYCE M. ROSENBERG | Associated Press

NEW YORK – Although Texas no longer requires people to wear masks to protect against COVID-19, customers do need them to enter De J. Lozada's store.

“We cannot afford to take chances with the lives of my staffers. They're young people and their parents have entrusted me with their care,” said Lozada, owner of Soul Popped Gourmet Popcorn, a shop in Austin.

Eighteen states currently have no mask requirements, including some that have never made face coverings mandatory.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted his state's mask mandate on March 2.

Indiana's mandate will be lifted today.

But many business owners are keeping their own rules in place, requiring its workers and customers to wear masks for the sake of protecting everybody, particularly their employees.

A company's premises are private property, so owners can insist that customers wear masks, said Michael Jones, an attorney with the law firm Eckert Seamans in Philadelphia.

Most retail chains require employees and customers to wear masks. One exception, Foot Locker, says each store is following the requirements of the state where it's located.

Employers have an obligation under federal law and some state laws to provide a safe workplace for their employees.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says employers are required to have a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

When employees at Inteplast Group question why they have to wear masks, managers can point to the law, said Brenda Wilson, senior director of human resources and communications of the Livingston, New Jersey-based plastic products manufacturer.

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