Q: Have any courts addressed a company’s ability to regulate the type of masks that employees wear at work?
A: At the height of the pandemic and after the death of George Floyd in June 2020, many employers grappled with whether they could and should regulate the type of face masks worn in the workplace. The appellate courts for the First and Third circuits recently addressed this issue, reaching different conclusions. The First Circuit ruled that an employer is permitted to discipline employees for wearing Black Lives Matter (BLM) face masks in the workplace in violation of its dress code. In a Third Circuit decision, the court enjoined the employer from enforcing a dress code policy, banning employees from wearing BLM face coverings. The differences in outcome can be attributed mainly to the fact that the employer in the First Circuit case was a private employer, and the employer in the Third Circuit case was a public employer.