July 8, 2020
A week ago, Governor Janet Mills announced that retailers larger than 50,000 square feet in certain counties and communities would be required to enforce the facial covering requirement.
Here’s what you need to know:
- It impacts retailers with 50,000 square feet of selling space or more in Cumberland, York, Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Waldo and Sagadahoc Counties or in the communities of Bangor, Brewer, Lewiston, Auburn and Augusta. It also impacts restaurants, bars, tasting rooms and lodging properties.
- It states that these businesses “shall implement measures requiring customers to wear face coverings. Such measures may, for example, include denial of entry or service.”
- So, what does that mean? I specifically asked what does a retailer have to do beyond the required signage that facial coverings are mandatory? The department said that they are leaving that up to the retailer to determine but the expectation would be that it would be more than simply posting signage. While it does not require you to station someone at the entrance to verbally remind customers about the requirement, that would be a logical enforcement step.
- I then posed the scenario of a customer bent on not wearing a facial covering, and they stressed that you can deny them service. You are welcome to offer them curbside or some other accommodation. We emphasized our concern of putting retail employees in harm’s way and they acknowledged that if the person still enters they store, you need to keep your people safe, avoid any kind of physical confrontation and let them enter the store. However, the department has also been working with the Department of Public Safety to make sure municipal law enforcement and code enforcement will assist with enforcement when appropriate. So, please do not hesitate to contact law enforcement or your municipality if there is an escalation.
- We’ve also been told verbally that even people with a medical condition can still wear a facial shield. Unfortunately, that clarification was not included in the press conference or executive order, but we are hopeful it will be included in additional written guidance.
- If a customer claims to have a medical exception, you can offer to accommodate them with curbside service or delivery and deny them entry.
- Additionally, we asked what happens when the state receives a complaint that you are not enforcing the mandate? DECD reiterated that they want to make sure the retailer is making the effort at enforcement vs a business that chooses to simply ignore the order. If you are making consistent effort yet still receive a complaint, the state will work with you to improve, if possible. However, if a business is not complying and making the effort, those businesses could face license violations and other penalties.
- The order takes effect today.
My final word of advice is that although this order only impacts certain retailers and other businesses, it is reasonable to expect that this order may be expanded down the road to all retailers in all locations. So, please pay attention to how this expanded order is working in the coming days.
We know how stressful the facial covering requirement has been for many of you and you’ve had to deal with unruly customers. We are very sorry about that, and hope that efforts like our Let’s Be Kind campaign will help turn the tide.