Legal Blog

PA Secretary of Health Issues Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings

On November 17, 2020, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health issued an Order Requiring Face Coverings. The Order went into effect on November 18, 2020. The blog focuses on the implications that this Order has on businesses.


Businesses must do the following:

  • Require that all employees, customers and visitors wear a face covering and take reasonable steps to enforce this requirement.
  • Mitigate or eliminate employee, customer or visitor exposure to someone who cannot wear/refuse to wear a face covering.
  • Post prominent signs that are visible to all people, stating that face coverings are required by the Order of the Secretary of Health.
  • Provide Reasonable accommodations to employees, customers and visitors who state that they have a medical condition, including mental health condition that makes it unreasonable for the person to wear a face covering.
    • Businesses can decline service to individuals who are not wearing a mask, so long as they attempt to provide a reasonable accommodation. (NOTE: Accommodations include use of a face shield or other alternative to face covering.)
    • Examples of an alternative to face coverings include: (1) plastic face shield that covers the nose and mouth, extends below the chin and to the ears.

Businesses must NOT:

  • Enforce face covering when it is unsafe to do so.
  • Restrain, assault, use force, or physically remove individuals who refuse to comply with the Order.
  • Discriminate.


Employees are exempted from wearing a face covering when:

  • Wearing a face covering while working would create an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
  • If wearing a face covering would either cause a medical condition, or exacerbate an existing one, including respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition or a disability.
  • When necessary to confirm someone’s identity.
  • When working alone and isolated from interaction with other people with little or no expectation of in-person interaction.
    • NOTE: The Order defines “Working Alone.” The phrase means when, “a person is isolated from interaction with other people with little or no expectation of in-person interruption.” Examples include:
      • A lone worker inside an enclosed cab of a crane of construction equipment.
      • A person by themselves inside an office with four walls and a door.
      • A lone worker inside a cubicle with 3 walls and a door or entryway, with walls high enough to block the breathing zone of all people walking by, and the worker’s activity will not require anyone to come inside of the worker’s workspace.
      • An employee who is alone in an agricultural field or other open area with no anticipated contact with others.


This Order again puts the responsibility on the business to ensure that everyone- not just their employees- are wearing masks. Businesses must ensure that all visitors and customers are complying. Prudent employers should have protocol in place for dealing with situations when a visitor or customer does not have a face covering on.

Lastly, businesses should make sure there are signs posted on the premises regarding the face covering requirement.




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