Harris County Issues Order Making Masks Mandatory for Certain Businesses
On Friday June 19, 2020, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo signed an Order Regarding Health and Safety Policy and Face Coverings. The Order is effective as of 12:01 am on Monday, June 22, 2020 and continues through 11:59 pm on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, unless extended, modified, or terminated early by further order of Judge Hidalgo or otherwise.
The Order states that “all commercial entities in Harris County providing goods or services directly to the public must develop, post, and implement a health and safety policy ("Health and Safety Policy"). The Health and Safety Policy must require, at a minimum, that all employees or visitors to the commercial entity's business premises or other facilities wear face coverings when in an area or performing an activity which will necessarily involve close contact or proximity to co-workers or the public. The Health and Safety Policy required to be developed and implemented by this Order may also include the implementation of other mitigating measures designed to control and reduce the transmission of COVID-19”.
The Order states further that "commercial entities must post the health and safety policy required by this Executive Order in a conspicuous location sufficient to provide notice to employees and visitors of all health and safety requirements. Failure to develop and implement the Health and Safety Policy required by this Executive Order within five (5) calendar days following the Effective Date may result in a fine not to exceed $1,000 for each violation.”
The Order also requires that “all people 10 years or older shall wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when in a commercial entity or working in areas in a commercial entity that involve close proximity with others.” Face coverings may include homemade masks, scarfs, bandanas, or a handkerchief. Harris County employees are required to wear face coverings under the same circumstances as the general public. Exceptions to the face covering requirement include the following circumstances:
- When exercising outside or engaging in physical activity outside;
- While driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver;
- When doing so poses a greater mental or physical health, safety, or security risk;
- While pumping gas or operating outdoor equipment;
- While in a building or activity that requires security surveillance or screening, for example, banks, or;
- When consuming food or drink.
Although the Order provides for imposition of a fine not to exceed $1,000 for each violation for commercial entities that fail to implement and develop the required Health and Safety Policy within five (5) calendar days of the effective date of the Order, the Order also states that “no civil or criminal penalty will be imposed on individuals for failure to wear a face covering.” [Emphasis added].These materials are made available by Stibbs & Co., P.C. for informational purposes only, do not constitute legal or tax advice, and are not a substitute for legal advice from qualified counsel. The laws of other states and nations may be entirely different from what is described. Your use of these materials does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Stibbs & Co., P.C. The facts and results of each case will vary, and no particular result can be guaranteed. The facts and results of each case will vary, and no particular result can be guaranteed. Employers should consult their tax advisors concerning the application of tax laws to their particular situation.
Employers are also encouraged to seek legal counsel prior to taking actions to avoid violations of federal or state employment laws including, but not limited to, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.