Many essential businesses operating in Los Angeles are asking what if any obligations do they have in regards to customer face coverings coming to their businesses for goods and services.  As explained below, the confusion stems from the County’s and City’s often contradictory orders and guidance issued on this topic.

County of Los Angeles

The Los Angeles County Safer At Home Order requires all essential businesses open to members of the public to post a social distancing protocol by April 16, 2020.  The Social Distancing Protocol must be posted at or near the entrance of the facility and easily viewable by the public and employees.  A copy of the Social Distancing Protocol must also be provided to each employee performing work at the facility.

The Social Distancing Protocol must set forth how the company will, among other items, require members of the public who enter the facility wear a face covering during their time in the facility.  See section 2(g).  This requirement is creating a lot of questions from businesses about what their obligations are to enforce this face covering requirement.

However, contradictory to the requirement that anyone who is entering an essential business must have a face covering, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Guidance for Cloth Face Coverings states the following:

When should I wear a cloth face covering?

You are asked to wear a cloth face covering over your nose and mouth when you must be in public for essential activities, such as shopping at the grocery store. Wearing a cloth face covering does not eliminate the need to physically distance yourself from others and to wash your hands frequently.

Is a face cover required?

Everyone is asked to wear a face covering when they are interacting with others who are not members of their household in public and private spaces. Face coverings are an additional tool that individuals should use to help slow the spread of COVID-19 but does not replace other social distancing requirements.

This Guidance from Los Angeles County sets forth that it is not a requirement, but that “everyone is asked to wear a face covering” when interacting with others.  The County’s messaging on this issue is not clear, and one can easily see how the public and businesses are confused on this issue.

City of Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles also has published contradictory statements about the requirement of face coverings.

Los Angeles City Worker Protection Order states:

All workers at essential services businesses “must wear face covering over their noses and mouths while performing their work.  At this time, the face covering are not medical-grade masks or N95 respirators, but rather, fabric coverings, such as scarves and bandanas.

The workers are required to wash the face coverings at least once daily, and single use face coverings must be properly discarded into the trash.  Employers are required to provide these face coverings to the employees.

In regards to customers and visitors to essential services businesses, the City’s Order provides that they “must wear face coverings over their noses and mouths to provide additional protection for employees and customers. At this time, the face coverings need not be medical-grade masks or N95 respirators, but can be fabric coverings, such as scarves and bandana coverings.”  The Order sets forth the business owners “may refuse admission or service to any individual who fails to ear face covering as required by this Order.”   However, contrary to the requirement that visitors and customers “must wear face coverings,” the Mayor’s Order contains a statement later in the Order that the Mayor encourages all people to wear face coverings over their noses and mouths when they are outside their homes to obtain essential services and goods, but “[t]hese are recommendations and not requirements.”

So are businesses required to refuse service to customers who are not wearing facial covers in the City of Los Angeles?

Good question, and the Mayor should clarify this contradiction in the Order.  However, despite the contradictory requirements in the Mayor’s Order, it is clear that there is no requirement that businesses are required to enforce this “requirement,” but that businesses “may” refuse service to customers who are not wearing face covers.  At this point, businesses are not required to refuse service to a customer who is not wearing a face cover.