What the statewide mask order means for contractors

Many of our members have asked ABC of Wisconsin to interpret Gov. Tony Evers’ latest emergency order in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The governor declared a public health emergency and mandated the statewide use of face masks for all residents age 5 and older when they are indoors or in an enclosed space – other than a private residence – with anyone outside their household or living unit. The order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1 and expires on Sept. 28, 2020, unless repealed by a subsequent superseding emergency order, an act of the Legislature or a ruling by the courts. The order is enforceable by local law authorities with a fine not to exceed $200.

“Enclosed spaces” include – but are not limited to – outdoor bars, outdoor restaurants, taxis, public transit, ride-share vehicles, and outdoor park structures. The statewide requirement specifically supersedes any local order that is less restrictive.

All employees will be required to wear face coverings unless outdoors or the only person in a enclosed space. While several law enforcement agencies have indicated they will not enforce the order, employers need to know that local health departments may enforce it. Even though the obligations of the governor’s order apply to individuals, the mandate could have implications for civil claims made by employees regarding the requirement to provide a safe work environment. Contractors are well advised to do a risk assessment to determine what personal protective equipment (PPE) are needed to keep employees safe.

ABC of Wisconsin has developed a series of questions and answers to help contractors navigate through this statewide mandate:

The situation is changing rapidly. The latest emergency order is facing strong opposition from the state Legislature, which may result in the order being overturned. The independent free market think thank Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty (WILL) has threatened a legal challenge to Evers’ order, but it is unknown whether the Wisconsin Supreme Court would hear any legal challenges to the order before its Sept. 28 end date.

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