Woman holding face mask in hand

Face Mask Exemptions – Fake or Real?

A BeautyCouncil member recently had a client claim to have a medical condition preventing them from wearing a mask or face covering — and they produced a “Face Mask Medical Exemption Card” to prove it.

Our member responded that as a personal service provider requiring close proximity with her clients, masks were required in her establishment for the safety of herself, her employees, and her clients. This person continued to pressure her, threatening to report her and citing their “rights.”

The card was, in fact, fake and looks much like the cards in this article from July — reporting on anti-lockdown groups distributing fake mask exemption cards.

Curious if there were legitimate mask exemptions, we spoke to employment and labour lawyer Christopher Drinovz to help clarify the situation. In simple terms, one person’s inability to wear a mask cannot be prioritized over the health and safety of others:

A business owner cannot put employees and other clients at risk to accommodate one person’s medical issues. This would constitute an ‘undue hardship’ under the Human Rights Code that would justify refusing service to that person.” If the client is cooperative, the business owner could consider allowing the customer “to wear some form of covering (face shield, for example) that would be less obstructive for their medical condition.”

We also asked about a situation in that an employee is unable to wear a mask or face covering. No surprise here: one person’s health cannot be prioritized over the health and safety of others. Drinovz explains further:

“If an employee had a legitimate medical condition that prevented them from wearing a face mask, the employer is entitled to ask for a medical note from the family doctor to confirm this.

If the employee produces a medical note from a doctor, the employee can then decide whether they want to accommodate the employee by offering them a position that does not require interactions with others. They would not be able to let the employee work without a mask in breach of WorkSafeBC guidelines.

In a small personal services business where a mask is mandatory in all positions, my view is that it would probably be an undue hardship for the employer to have to accommodate the employee. Therefore, they could probably terminate the employee and not face liability.”

While masks are not mandatory indoors currently in BC, our COVID Safety Plans are required to follow the hierarchy of controls. As personal service providers, we already know the nature of our business is riskier in that we cannot always abide by the highest level of control (distancing) — therefore, it is our job to ensure we are doing everything we can to operate safely within the confines of our industry.

To make sure you and your team are operating at the highest safety standards, get BeautySafe certified here.

Photo: Anna Shvets