OHS Canada Magazine

No mask, no service? Businesses have the right to require masks on customers

‘Any business has the right to refuse anyone’: Ontario premier


TORONTO — If you were hoping to get out of putting on a face mask to visit stores and other businesses demanding customers wear one, think again.

Experts agree with remarks Ontario Premier Doug Ford made on Friday, reminding Canadians that companies have the right to ask you to slip on a face covering or seek products and services elsewhere.

“Any business has the right to refuse anyone. That’s their business,” Ford said on a teleconference last week. “I highly, highly encourage that people put on a face shield.”

He said he knows of two large grocery chains that have already adopted the “no mask, no service” policy meant to quell the spread of COVID-19.

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The Canadian Press has been told by Longo’s and T&T supermarkets, Air Canada and Uber that shoppers, travellers and riders will be confronted with the mandatory policy at their stores and businesses.

Richard Powers, a University of Toronto associate professor with expertise in business law, says the policy is well within a company’s rights.

“The safety of retail workers and staff trumps the customers right to refuse wearing a mask,” he said.

Responsibility to create safe environment

“Businesses have a legal responsibility to create a safe working environment and if having people wear masks is a reasonable accommodation, which I think it is, to provide that safe environment, I believe that the retailer can refuse entry to someone who will not don a mask.”

City of Toronto spokesperson Diala Homaidan confirmed in an email that “no mask, no service” policies do not contravene any bylaws, but said such rules are not a requirement of business licensing and are left to the discretion of individual companies.

However, businesses that do implement such policies are likely to face concerns from Canadians with health conditions that are aggravated by masks.

Wearing a mask could contribute to an asthma attack for some, she said, while others with autism spectrum disorder may have trouble with sensory processing, as well as tactile, olfactory and nervous-system hypersensitivity that wearing a mask could trigger.

“Be very aware of those with different types of cognitive, intellectual disabilities, those who are hearing impaired and others,” Canada’s top health official said recently.

“Don’t assume that someone who isn’t wearing a mask or is wearing something different doesn’t have an actual reason for it,” chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said.

Challenges may be expected

Powers believes this is a sign some retailers could be in for a fight.

“Someone will challenge that on whatever grounds — discrimination perhaps — and that creates a hassle for the retailer and an expense, if they choose to fight it,” he said.

Adam Savaglio, a partner at business and employment law firm Scarfone Hawkins LLP, said the policy creates “a dance” for companies, especially because governments are advising them to take precautions to protect people from COVID-19.

“It can create a potential discrimination claim because one of the grounds in Ontario, at least under the Human Rights Code, where an individual may have a claim, is they’re being adversely treated on account of a protected ground, in this case, disability,” Savaglio said.

“They may have a personal right of action against the owner of that business for denial of service.”

That can be juxtaposed with health and safety legislation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which says companies have an obligation to protect its employees from all reasonable or foreseeable risks of harm.

“That creates a competing rights issue,” he said. “Who triumphs if the individual refuses to adhere to the protocol?”


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10 Comments » for No mask, no service? Businesses have the right to require masks on customers
  1. Catherine Diodati says:

    Mandating masks is nothing more than government overstepping without scientific or medical justification.

    Coronaviruses are so small that even medical masks are no barrier. Fabric masks are even less effective. What possible real reason could be put forth justifying forcing people to wear useless masks?
    Its time the government admits they over dramatized this pandemic, do not have accurate infection, death or immune status statistics. Yet, they have severely injured the economy, family & social relations, denied vital medical services & surgeries with every policy they have muddled through. Time to back off and stop trying to control a population that will not be controlled through injustices imposed by a confused and irresponsible government and health authorities whoss opinions change every time the wind shifts.

    • Dylan says:

      We need more people like you speak the truth

      • Intelligent says:

        (Edited) Viruses move through Brownian motion, static charges do trap particles in mask, the goal of a mask is to reduce spread not stop it… I have sold safety masks in factories for numerous purposes through 3M for decades, the science behind this has been pretty concrete for 20+ years and improving…

        You guys need to understand that there’s very good reason to wear a mask, but yes, a virus is 125 microns and an N95 is most effective at 300 microns, the virus is smaller than that, but does not mean it doesn’t work on reducing smaller particles. We know this with many other particles too.

    • Barbara Plett says:

      Thank God to hear from someone else who isn’t just believing all the scare tactics the government is dishing out to keep controlling us. What are our rights? Do we have any left?

  2. Joe says:

    Some people drinks a lot and still not drunk. However, the government implements a law for drink and drive which is good for our society.

    Almost everyone drives safely and obey the traffic law. However, our government implements a law to have license, insurance and registration which is good for our society.

    Many people haven’t contracted or doesn’t know they’ve contracted Covid19. Our government should implement a law to wear mask and social distancing to be a good society.

  3. Lynn says:

    Government control, this is what it is. Someone is making big money. The mask policy is a way of control, the government controls what the media tells you . Installing fear into the public. It’s becomming a social experiment to use the media to enforce mandatory mask use in public places. Masks are a false sense of security. You could still get covid through a mask. Stop and think for yourselves don’t be sheep. Stand up for your rights. Remember more people recover from covid then die from it. Don’t just believe what you hear, do your own research.

  4. Tammy says:

    Apparently work places can now deem employees “disabled” if they can’t wear a mask due to medical reasons. Which allows them to require a doctor’s note with the details as to what disability the employee has and how long they have been being treated for it and expected recovery. This falls under the “Code to Accommodate” if the accommodation could cause “undue hardship” from cost or health and safety. So if you have breathing problems that wearing a mask irritates or causes dizziness, but aren’t diagnosed ailments, you have no rights to refuse wearing the mask.

  5. Jack Harper says:

    ‘Any business has the right to refuse anyone’: Ontario premier
    I wasn’t aware the Premier is a lawyer.
    Business’s are licenced by the province & must consider a myriad of rights and freedoms by anyone.
    So any business not wishing to take on a new partner may well be advised to be very careful why they refuse service to anyone.

  6. Jack Harper says:

    quote”Richard Powers, a University of Toronto associate professor” “The safety of retail workers and staff trumps the customers right to refuse wearing a mask,” he said.
    This is an unproved presumption & as of today, unprovable.

  7. Penny says:

    I’m sick of this b.s. I’ve had 2 nasty managers single me out and confront me. This is disgusting bullying tactics. The poor environment is being damaged because of the wastage of masks. With tonns of waste every week. I’m supposed to stay home, yet have to choke on the 2nd hand smoke in a non-smoking building. Last Christmas I had pneumonia from this carcinogen filled air. I have cancer and allergies, these masks give me sinus infections which causes bronchitis. With losing about 75 of my lymph nodes. It takes a month or more to get over the infection. It’s not normal to force healthy people to wear masks. Many people end up with serious dermatitis or worst. Plus how many people have 8 or more masks for a shift. Because after an hour they need to be changed. I will never be a media zombie and refuse to let a flu stop me from living. Considering I fought hard to stay alive from palliative stage 4 cancer! I want to also shame on value village and puma for having rude belligerent behavior.

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