As businesses reopen nationwide, shoppers are increasingly encountering “no mask, no service” signs, which has some people asking, “Can they do that?”
In short, yes, said Melissa Alexander, a University of Wyoming law professor who specializes in health law and policy.
“We as Americans believe in individual liberties,” Alexander said. “So it’s not that there’s a law protecting business owners who want to do this, but rather there isn’t a law prohibiting it.”
Mask requirements can be likened to “no shirt, no shoes, no service” signs common in many gas stations, tie requirements at some formal restaurants or even smoking restrictions in areas where smoking indoors hasn’t been banned by local officials, she added.
As long as a business is not targeting a class protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — race, color, religion, sex and national origin — it is allowed to stipulate how their customers shop. Because masks are being required of everyone who enters, such requirements are legal, Alexander explained.
“People who don’t agree with a business’ requirements always have the choice to shop elsewhere,” she said.
While some states have mask orders in place, which puts businesses that choose not to enforce the rule at risk of losing state aid or licensing, Wyoming has only issued a mask recommendation.
“Wearing a face covering is absolutely not a substitute for social distancing, which remains important to slowing the spread of this virus,” Wyoming State Health Officer Alexia Harrist said in a news release.
The Wyoming Department of Health acknowledges cloth face coverings of the homemade variety are not as effective as N-95 respirators, but still advises residents the cloth covering is better than nothing at all. (https://health.wyo.gov/targeted-use-of-personal-face-coverings-recommended-for-wyoming-residents/)