Are Businesses in Texas Allowed to Require Masks?

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has issued guidance for schools to comply with the state's mask order. Governor's State Order does not require Texans to wear a face mask at polling locations. However, businesses are allowed to continue to demand masks from their employees and customers. In fact, some of the largest retail, theater, hotel and restaurant chains in the United States operating in Texas have announced that they will continue to require the use of masks.

It may be more difficult for companies to justify mask requirements to customers in the absence of government bans, but many companies will still require masks for their employees and customers. Masks are no longer required for unvaccinated individuals in public settings and closed businesses, but all people, regardless of vaccination status, are strongly encouraged to wear masks in closed public settings. The order also emphasizes the removal of all public health limits on Texas businesses, encouraging the use of masks in areas with high rates of coronavirus transmission. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is likely to issue a temporary emergency rule in the next two weeks that requires the use of masks in certain contexts.

This rule will help address questions from people wondering why some businesses still require masks if the statewide mask mandate ends. Masks are still required in certain limited settings (in healthcare settings and others as specified). The State of Virginia and the Department of Labor and Industry will not allow or tolerate unlawful discrimination based on whether or not to wear masks, and individuals should not be fired or fired for not wearing a mask, subject to federal requirements. The requirement to wear a mask in indoor public places has been eliminated for most venues and businesses.

Regardless of what happens on the regulatory front, given the anxiety that many workers have felt, and continue to feel, about the obligation to return to work, requiring masks and taking other precautions to protect employees from exposure to COVID-19 is a good way for employers to show that they care about the well-being of their employees. Masks are still needed in health care facilities, assisted living centers for the elderly, centers serving people with intellectual disabilities, correctional centers, public transportation, day care centers, and public and private schools when inside a closed center. People are encouraged to follow CDC guidelines for wearing a mask when required by law, rules, and regulations, including guidelines for healthcare, local businesses, and workplaces. Masks continue to be necessary for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in specific high-risk settings, including but not limited to healthcare settings.

No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participating in an activity or entering a business. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Travis and Austin County officials in March for imposing a local mask mandate despite Abbott's order banning such requirements at the time. Masks are still needed in some settings such as healthcare, long-term care, and correctional facilities. People over 2 years of age and able to medically tolerate face coverings may need to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or face covering when in a public place and cannot maintain or not maintain physical distance if the state health commissioner determines that masks should be required.