Businesses could keep mask requirements in place, even without county mandate

MADISON, Wis. — As we wait to hear if or when Dane County’s mask mandate will be lifted, many business owners are trying to decide whether they will follow the CDC guidance or continue to require customers to wear masks.

They will either have to trust that everyone who comes in without a mask is vaccinated, or keep some restrictions in place knowing that the virus is still out there and we haven’t reached herd immunity yet.

“Businesses have already required shirts and shoes for quite some time. And sometimes other requirements as well. We are just more used to those. Those have been in place for so long,” said Sarah Kissel, an employment lawyer at Scholz Nonprofit Law LLC.

She said similarly to the “no shoes, no service” rule at most businesses, some could choose to continue to require masks, even after the county removes its mandate.

“If they decided that for the safety of the people that work there, for the safety of the people who are coming in to enjoy their services, that they require this extra protection, there is nothing out there at this point restricting them from doing so,” said Kissel.

She said many of her clients are trying to find the line between safety and getting back to business. But with the guidance changing so often, she said that line is a moving target.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see airlines have greater requirements and restrictions. But boy, it’s really going to be interesting to see how businesses decide to navigate that,” said Kissel.

With Dane County’s masking rules still in place, even though stores like Target nationally got rid of the mask policy for vaccinated individuals, they’re still required here.

But even once the mandate is gone, just like many stadiums are asking for vaccination proof in order to enter, businesses can also ask if you’re vaccinated.

“While it may seem like an invasion of privacy asking someone who’s coming to dine at a restaurant, or use a business in some other means, whether they’ve been vaccinated, I can’t think of any reason why you could not,” said Kissel. “Because the option still lies with the client, the potential customer, to say, ‘I would like to share this information’ or ‘It is not worth it to me to share this information in order to have these services.’”

Public Health Madison and Dane County is expected to release updated guidance about its mask policy on Tuesday. Many counties in Wisconsin have already dropped their mask requirements.