Breaking down Executive Order 2021-20 for Illinois businesses
On August 26, 2021, Governor Pritzker (Illinois) issued Executive Order 2021-20 (also known as COVID-19 EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 87) which includes a new Illinois mask mandate along with certain vaccination mandates for health care workers, school personnel, higher education and state-owned facilities.
Let’s breakdown this Executive Order and how it may apply to your private sector business.
The Illinois Mask Mandate
The Illinois mask mandate is included in Section 1 of the Executive Order, which states:
Beginning on Monday, August 30, 2021, all individuals in Illinois who are age two or over and able to medically tolerate a face covering (a mask or cloth face covering) shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a face covering when in an indoor public place. Illinoisans should also consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities that involve close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.
Face coverings may be removed temporarily while actively eating or drinking (including in bars or restaurants), and may be removed by workers at workplaces when they can consistently maintain six feet of distance (such as when workers are in their office or cubicle space).
All individuals, including those who are fully vaccinated, shall continue to be required to wear a face covering (1) on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation and in transportation hubs such as airports and train and bus stations; (2) in congregate facilities such as correctional facilities and homeless shelters; and (3) in healthcare settings.
Does The Illinois Mask Mandate Impact Your Business?
Determining how the Illinois mask mandate may impact your business depends on what type of business you operate.
Many private sector businesses will find themselves exempt from this mandate. The Executive Order expressly says that masks “may be removed by workers at workplaces when they can consistently maintain six feet of distance (such as when workers are in their office or cubicle space).”
So as long as your employees can consistently maintain a distance of six feet, the mask mandate likely does not apply to your business unless you fall into one of the industries that require masks regardless of social distancing (see below). If your employees cannot “consistently” maintain six feet of distance, then masks must be worn regardless of vaccination status. If you are one of the businesses that operated throughout the shutdown and found a way to keep your employees socially distant at all times until the restrictions were lifted earlier this year, it is up to you to decide if you want to return to that socially distant model or require employees to wear masks. Of course if any employee has a medical or other valid reason for not wearing a mask then, you may need to find a way for that employee to maintain social distancing while working. This would be part of a “reasonable accommodation” analysis that you will need to make while engaging in the interactive process with the employee.
What is “Consistently”?
The statewide Illinois mask mandate applies if you cannot “consistently” maintain six feet of distance? But what does “consistently” mean. The mandate doesn’t say, but given the examples it likely means anytime an employee may come within six feet of another employee (for example walking through the hallway or standing at the copier) they should be wearing a mask. The mask mandate does include an exception that allows employees to take off their mask while actively eating or drinking. So employees can take off their masks during lunch or break times in the office breakroom – but note the requirement that they be “actively” eating or drinking. That means if employees are lingering after they are done eating they need to be masked. Another example would be gatherings around the coffeemaker in the morning which will likely require masking as that is generally a time when employees are more focused on talking than actively drinking their coffee.
What Industries or Businesses Require Masking?
The Illinois mask mandate applies to “indoor public place”, “crowded outdoor settings” and “for activities that involve close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated”. If your private sector business operates in any of those settings, masks must be worn at all times (with the exception of “actively eating or drinking” times.)
Employees that travel for work or where their job is performed on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation need to wear masks at all times, regardless of whether they can maintain social distancing. Also, businesses that operate in transportation hubs such as airports and train and bus stations must have their employees masked at all times. And lastly, if you are considered to be a healthcare setting then your employees need to be masked at all times.
The Vaccination Mandates
The remainder of the Executive Order focuses on vaccinations and testing requirements. Sections 2 through 5 creates vaccination and COVID-19 testing requirements for specific industries: health care workers, school personnel, higher education and state-owned or operated congregate facilities. While Section 6 includes a statement that “entities are encouraged to implement robust vaccination and testing programs to reduce the spread of COVID-19”, it falls short of mandating that all businesses require vaccinations or testing. At this time there is no law in place in Illinois mandating all businesses require vaccinations. Could that be coming? Only time will tell.
Cook County and Chicago Mask Mandates
The Executive Order comes as the latest in a recent string of similar mask mandates. Chicago’s mask mandate went into effect on August 20 while Cook County’s mask mandate went into effect on August, 23. Both orders require that all people above age two who can medically tolerate a mask to wear one in multi-unit residential buildings and public places, such as restaurants, movie theaters, retail establishments, fitness clubs, and on public transportation. The Cook County ordinance also requires businesses to post signage that states that masks are required. The CCDPH has created a sign that businesses can use: https://cookcountypublichealth.org/ccdph-covid-19-communications/
Should you have any questions about masking rules or COVID-19 vaccination or testing policies for your businesses, or you would like to schedule an initial consultation, please contact Navigant Law Group, LLC at (847)253-8800 or email us at email@example.com.
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