Submitted by s16016wb t3_10a0era in RhodeIsland

Does anyone know if it is legal in RI for a business to forbid employees from wearing a mask at work, given the recent increase in COVID cases and new variants? For context, the business is a small retail shop (<10 employees). The employee in question is fully vaccinated but immunocompromised and has a child will chronic respiratory illness. The employee works part-time in a customer-facing capacity.



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[deleted] t1_j41ohfu wrote

I am not a lawyer but am trained as a manager in state and federal nondiscrimination law.

Immunocompromise is a protected disability under state and federal law. Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for the needs of disabled employees, and allowing an employee to wear a mask to avoid contracting a virus that could severely injure or kill them is almost certainly a reasonable accommodation.

I believe the employer in question is setting themselves up for enormous fines as well as needing to make significant payments to the impacted employee.

Disability Rights Rhode Island can provide additional help and answer questions:


newtoRI22 t1_j429kif wrote

Federal law may not apply here:

> Businesses with fewer than 15 employees are not covered by the employment provisions of the ADA.


There may be some practical considerations: - Does the employer know this individual immunocompromised? Even if ADA does apply, the employer still needs to know an accommodation is being requested and they would go through an interactive process.

  • Please know that the protection afforded by most masks is negligible. (A proper fitting respirator is different from most of the masks you see around. Also, people who are sick should know that their masks generally don’t protect others. If you have a fever stay home!) If this person’s medical condition is serious enough that getting infected with flu (it’s flu season!) or other illness is of concern, a customer facing job is going to continue to have risks.

[deleted] t1_j42a2jo wrote

Two quick observations:

  1. An N95 mask, properly fitted, is highly effective against SARS-COV2.

  2. DRRI is Congressionally funded and can help with questions around disability rights and federal law. Their hotline is listed and they can answer questions and make referrals regarding issues of state law as well.


newtoRI22 t1_j430y3c wrote

That was my point - most people aren’t wearing respirators (N95s are respirators). People who are wearing respirators likely do not have a proper fit. Properly worn respirators create a tight seal and are often very uncomfortable for a full day of wear.


[deleted] t1_j431ssc wrote

A decently fitted N95 is an option, and in the case of a risky situation can make the difference between being able to work or not.


orm518 t1_j430fd9 wrote

> Please know that the protection afforded by most masks is negligible. (A proper fitting respirator is different from most of the masks you see around. Also, people who are sick should know that their masks generally don’t protect others. If you have a fever stay home!) If this person’s medical condition is serious enough that getting infected with flu (it’s flu season!) or other illness is of concern, a customer facing job is going to continue to have risks.

[Citation needed.]

Masks work, and better masks work better: link


newtoRI22 t1_j438iq3 wrote

Theoretically, an N95 respirator should work well.

In practice, the benefit of wearing masks to mitigate respiratory illness is not detectable at meaningful levels in randomized clinical trials. Prepandemic, this was studied widely for flu. During the pandemic there were unfortunately very few robust studies.

This article gives a good overview:


Proof-Variation7005 t1_j41gf20 wrote

Even if that were legal, that employee should look for another job because their boss is an asshole.


Sox_in_the_box t1_j41ato0 wrote

Not sure about the legality, but that’s a dick move. Who give a fuck if someone wants to wear a mask? I’m anti-mask for myself, but if someone else wants to wear one and make that choice, go for it. Personal choices go both ways.


katieleehaw t1_j41cgkp wrote

Especially since most people who show up at work in a mask these days are SICK to some degree and attempting not to pass their germs to their coworkers and clients/customers. It's literally doing the employer a favor by both being present and not getting people sick. I'm so tired of the stupidity.


WrathWise t1_j428ol4 wrote

Oh pleaseee hinttt at us which POS employer this is…. I have some words for them.


Wide_Television_7074 t1_j4xp7uc wrote

this cancel culture crap is so lame


WrathWise t1_j4ynldx wrote

As employees, so is the far more toxic work culture of employers believing they own their employees and can force their beliefs on to employees - just as you wouldn’t want someone’s religious beliefs forced upon you.


Wide_Television_7074 t1_j4ypme2 wrote

trying to destroy businesses by spreading libel on the internet is low class, any way you slice it


WrathWise t1_j4ytcgl wrote

The owners destroyed their own business - they have no one but themselves & their own egotistical arrogance to blame. I imagine as you sound right-leaning, which I’m completely fine with, that you identify as a Patriot. Isn’t what makes our country great, freedom? The freedom to choose… to wear a mask with the belief it may protect one’s health, even if only MARGINALLY… so I’m more surprised their decision to act in such a Non-Democratic but rather dictator-like manner isn’t seen as offensive to you?


Wide_Television_7074 t1_j4yudae wrote

I believe in science and masks are a waste of everyone’s time. However, I actually don’t have an issue with someone who wants to sniff their own breath all day, to each their own. I have a problem with trying to destroy businesses that pay wages, they’ve had it hard enough since 2020. If we disagree with people, don’t spend money there, but there’s no need to die on that hill and impact workers that rely on that wage.


MavDrake t1_j41iqyi wrote

Shit, almost all the employees at my local Shaws are masked up.

What place is this?


skippyspk t1_j419o4c wrote

A lawyer would have to give a definitive answer.


orm518 t1_j430kgm wrote

Us lawyers specialize in indefinite answers. Lots of facts unknown here. My non-lawyer hat says this employer is being a jerk.


Rogue-Island-Pirate t1_j41a1uo wrote

I would recommend crossposting this to r/LegalAdvice.


Dangerous_Public_164 t1_j421n0c wrote

as a lawyer allow me to assure you, that is the last thing OP should do. there are many resources for this sort of question and a poster already pointed OP in a good direction. there are only a very, very small handful of decent posters on r/legaladvice and a lot of misleading advice is voted to the top. you would literally be better off asking on quora, that's how bad that subreddit is.

I mean here's a great example--I'm an attorney with no experience in this area and I wouldn't attempt to tackle the question other than by referring OP to appropriate resources. An r/legaladvice thread might have hundreds or thousands of confident replies but none of them will be from attorneys with direct experience, and all of them will be from people who should know that they don't know enough about the subject matter to answer the question adequately.


Proof-Variation7005 t1_j42rr8x wrote

I've never really looked there myself but it always made me laugh when I saw the suggestion cause I just assume it's like what you just described.


Unique-Public-8594 t1_j41biyn wrote

Agree with u/skippyspk

For liability that would be a foolish move on the employer’s part, no?

And shame on them. It’s time to be tolerant of different masking choices.

Excellent masking tips over on r/Masks4All.

I hope this employer changes their policy.


Unique-Public-8594 t1_j429ay8 wrote

I’m hoping someone sues their employer who forces them to be less cautious (and wins), setting precedent others need to follow.


[deleted] t1_j41cwf4 wrote



Jack__Squat t1_j41fcbz wrote

Wearing a mask doesn't hurt anyone. Not wearing a mask during the height of the pandemic may hurt someone. I'm not talking about now, I'm talking about when masking was strongly recommended or required.


buddhamanjpb t1_j41pvw8 wrote

This is the correct answer. It's not difficult to understand.


karvus89 t1_j4298jm wrote

But my rights


buddhamanjpb t1_j42gw1o wrote

Reminds me of the "War on Christmas" people all over again.

Funny how they're from the same group...


Smrgle t1_j428jaz wrote

This was received exactly as it should have been. We all hear you loud and clear, you are a proud selfish asshole.


radioflea t1_j43mnu2 wrote

My former employer, one of the worst hit in the pandemic once told all employees in March 2020 that it would look bad if we wore masks because it would cause unnecessary fear amongst families and clients.

By October 2020 we lost 150 individuals and all of the people who made this “recommendation” have all since been fired.

It is illegal to tell employees not to wear masks, especially during flu outbreaks and/or a pandemic that some people pretend is over.


rayshaunnn t1_j45c1kx wrote

Why should it be forbidden? It's just their own choice to protect themselves... I wear one when I feel not good when working. Especially the KF94 of Puremate cuz I think it's mostly protective and comfortable. I used to wear Dr.Puri but it sucks tho


Accomplished_Tour481 t1_j45bphd wrote

There is nothing prohibiting the immunocompromised employee from wearing a mask. But they cannot mandate other employees to wear a mask (that is against their rights).


BMorris2526 t1_j41nra1 wrote

The masks are useless. How many people do you know that wear masks on a regular basis and got covid? I know many people that mask and are boosted and they have gotten covid many times.


[deleted] t1_j41omka wrote

This is idiotic toff, sorry. It’s like saying “I know someone who exercised and ate well who got cancer, so healthy lifestyles don’t work to extend lifespan and a diet of Hostess cupcakes and Mountain Dew is just as good.”


buddhamanjpb t1_j41q3gs wrote

Anecdotal "evidence" is a logical fallacy. How can you attempt to make a valid point if you don't even understand high school science.


BMorris2526 t1_j442q1b wrote

Oh you must be right. Closing schools, masking kids, taking basketball hoops out of public parks, masking in restaurants while you walk to your seat, but then magically the mask isn't necessary when one sits. All of these mitigation measures were so successful at stopping the spread of covid. All without any negative mental health and cognitive effects on our kids. You are brilliant, keep it up.


BMorris2526 t1_j43niz3 wrote

Like there are only boys and girls. I did really well in that class.


buddhamanjpb t1_j43xhe0 wrote

If that's all you got out of that class, it actually explains a lot...


BMorris2526 t1_j4423ra wrote

Maybe you should take it. You libs seem very confused about human biology.


buddhamanjpb t1_j442qcm wrote

Funny how you assume I'm a "lib" just because I pointed out that your original reply was asinine.


Smrgle t1_j428pws wrote

Masks were never meant to protect the wearer. I got Covid twice, and masked regularly and nobody near me ever got it. I call that a successful mask right there, because I think about people other than myself.


katieleehaw t1_j42efsj wrote

Wearing a mask when you are sick to avoid spreading your own illness is very effective. That is what most masked people at work these days are doing, so you're fucking welcome.


newtoRI22 t1_j430h54 wrote

If you are ill enough that you are concerned about spreading illness, you should not fool yourself into thinking that your mask is effective.

Most people aren’t wearing N95s and even those who are may not be wearing them with a proper fit.


Scapuless t1_j42rus5 wrote

If you ever have to have surgery, please put your money where your mouth is and request that the surgical team refrain from wearing masks because they are useless.

Please, promise us all that you will do that. Please.


newtoRI22 t1_j435zwo wrote

Surgical masks are not N95 respirators. They are designed to prevent droplets (effectively spit) from entering the surgical site.

N95s and other respirators work to prevent aerosols from being circulated to/from the user.

Two entirely different designs for two different use cases. Surgical masks and cloth masks do not provide good control of aerosols.


Augnelli t1_j45wv00 wrote

>They are designed to prevent droplets (effectively spit) from entering the surgical site.

And how is COVID passed most frequently?


newtoRI22 t1_j46v46i wrote


Droplets are not the same thing as aerosols. Airborne transmission - that is transmission via aerosols - is the primary mechanism:


Augnelli t1_j47h3mc wrote

Great! And what form do aerosols take in the human respiratory system?

Oh, that's right, water droplets from expectorants! Of which, mask, even cloth ones, are effective at slowing or preventing their wide ranging spread. God damn, did you wake up today and decide to be stupid, or is this your default?


newtoRI22 t1_j4hgfti wrote

Calling me “stupid” is unnecessary and speaks more about you than me.

I’m not going to dox myself, but I can assure you that I’m better qualified to make a physical distinction between droplets and aerosols than anyone in this comment thread.

If you had bothered to read the coverage by Nature (one of the most widely respected scientific outfits in the world) that I linked, you would have seen this:

> The seemingly uncontroversial statement marked a clear shift for the Switzerland-based WHO, which had tweeted categorically early in the pandemic, “FACT: #COVID19 is NOT airborne,” casting the negative in capital letters as if to remove any doubt. At that time, the agency maintained that the virus spreads mainly through droplets produced when a person coughs, sneezes or speaks, an assumption based on decades-old infection-control teachings about how respiratory viruses generally pass from one person to another. The guidance recommended distancing of more than one metre — within which these droplets were thought to fall to the ground — along with hand washing and surface disinfection to stop transfer of droplets to the eyes, nose and mouth. > > It took until 20 October 2020 for the agency to acknowledge that aerosols — tiny specks of fluid — can transmit the virus, but the WHO said this was a concern only in specific settings, such as indoor, crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces. Over the next six months, the agency gradually altered its advice to say that aerosols could carry the virus for more than a metre and remain in the air (see ‘Changing views of how COVID spreads’).

Droplets are significantly larger than aerosols even though both are quite small. Droplets ante not considered airborne. Aerosols linger in the air for long periods of time whereas droplets tend to settle within a few seconds. This is important because the transmission mechanisms of viral particles contained within droplets or aerosols are different.

For a detailed scientific discussion of the difference between droplets and aerosols, as well as the impact on pandemic policies, see here:

I hope you’ll reconsider insulting people in the future.


Augnelli t1_j4hlho6 wrote

It's not airborne or in water droplets! It's in small droplets of water that are airborne!

I will not reconsider calling out bad faith arguments and cherry picking wherever I see it. If that means calling people like you stupid, so be it.


newtoRI22 t1_j4hssda wrote

Bad faith? Are those italics supposed to be my words?

> It's not airborne or in water droplets! It's in small droplets of water that are airborne!

I never said it wasn’t airborne. I said that surgical masks aren’t meant to protect against aerosols. (Ironic that you say I’m arguing in bad faith while you falsely imply I hold positions that I do not.)

Would you do asbestos remediation with a surgical mask? Surely not. (Asbestos particles span both droplet and aerosol sizes.) You would select an appropriate respirator for the job.

A proper respirator seals around your nose and mouth to prevent the aerosols from coming in. An N95 can do that reasonably well for viruses when proper fit is achieved. A surgical mask can’t because they are not designed to seal. They’re designed to capture spittle droplets from the wearer.


bungocheese t1_j42sux6 wrote

I actually didn't get it for 2 years while being forced to be out and working in the public, and one of the first non-masked things I went to in public I ended up getting it. If your anectodal evidence is to be a point, so can mine, not that that's at all how science or math work.


zinziesmom t1_j44b57y wrote

Surprise us all and tell us you aren’t vaccinated.


BMorris2526 t1_j44i4bp wrote

Believe it or not, I've had three compliance shots. I actually believed Biden when he said repeatedly that if one gets vaccinated they won't get covid. You likely still believe that it prevents people from getting and spreading covid.


BMorris2526 t1_j43ns3c wrote

Only 72 negatives. Come on libs. You can do better than that.