Yesterday, the State of North Dakota announced an extension of its statewide mask mandate until at least January 18, 2021.  Here is what North Dakota businesses and employers need to know about the mask mandate.

Mandatory Face Coverings

In general, the state order requires that all workers (including owners, proprietors, employees, contractors, vendors, volunteers and interns), patrons, customers, visitors, and guests wear face coverings in indoor businesses, as well as in outdoor businesses when it is not possible to maintain physical distancing.  “Businesses” are broadly defined to include all entities that employ or engage workers.

The state order, however, does exempt certain individuals from this mask mandate, including individuals with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that makes it unreasonable to wear a mask.  Nonetheless, these individuals are encouraged to consider alternatives, such as face shields.  Workers are also exempt if wearing a face covering would create a job hazard, as determined by government regulators or workplace safety and health standard.

Temporary Removal of Face Coverings

There are limited instances when face coverings may be removed while in an indoor business.  For example, a person may remove a face covering when eating or drinking, provided that at least 6 feet is maintained between other persons.  Additionally, individuals may remove a face covering when alone in an office, room, or cubicle with walls higher than face level when social distancing is maintained.  Individuals may further temporarily remove a face covering to verify identity, if necessary to communicate with someone with a disability, or to receive a service that cannot be performed with a face covering (such as a dental examination or procedure).

Business Implementation Requirements 

To comply with the state order, businesses must post at least one visible sign to instruct others to wear a mask.

If a worker or customer states they have a medical condition or disability that makes it unreasonable for them to wear a face covering, the business must provide an accommodation. For customers, the business may not ask them for proof of their medical condition or disability. For workers, the business must follow applicable laws (e.g., the Americans with Disabilities Act and North Dakota Human Rights Act) with regard to requesting documentation on the condition or disability.

Nothing in the state order requires that businesses to enforce the mask mandate if it is unsafe to do so nor does the order authorize physical force to remove those failing to comply.  However, any individual failing to comply with the mask mandate is guilty of an infraction.  The state order further does not prohibit any business from developing more protective requirements or policies.

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