Governor Northam issues statewide mask requirement

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EO 63-2

Starting Friday (May 29), “All patrons in the Commonwealth aged ten and over shall when entering, exiting, traveling through, and spending time inside the settings listed [in Executive Order 63, Paragraph A] cover their mouth and nose with a face covering, as described and recommended by the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].” That’s a new requirement, stipulated in Executive Order 63, which the Governor issued yesterday (May 26). The Order also clarifies what’s required for employees of essential retail businesses, like dealership service departments.

Why? In a news release, Governor Northam remarked, “Science shows that face coverings are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing them is also a sign of respect.” The release further stipulates a face covering can be anything that covers the nose and mouth, like a mask, scarf, or bandana, allowing people to reserve medical-grade masks and personal protective equipment for health care professionals.

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How does this impact Virginia’s franchised auto dealerships?

Specific details from Executive Order 63 are below, but here’s the bottom line: Starting Friday (May 29), all customers aged ten and over must wear face masks at your dealership, no matter the department. Employers must provide face coverings to employees, and ALL employees must wear them when facing customers and when social distancing cannot be strictly maintained. Failure to comply may result in store closure or other penalties. It remains our recommendation to have all your employees wear face coverings, even when interacting with other employees. Use common sense.

How does this impact dealership customers?

All patrons (meaning customers) aged ten and over must wear face masks when entering, exiting, traveling through, and spending time in the dealership. This patron requirement applies to both essential and non-essential brick and mortar retail, meaning it applies to customers in both the service and sales/finance departments. Some customers may refuse to comply. Consult your organization’s legal counsel for what to do if a customer refuses to comply.

What about employees in the service department?

The Order stipulates, “All employees of essential retail businesses as listed in Amended Executive Order 61 and Amended Order of Public Health Emergency Three (2020), section C, paragraph 1 shall wear a face covering whenever working in customer facing areas. Amended Executive Order 61 and Amended Order of Public Health Emergency Three (2020) is so further amended.”

Because “automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers as well as automotive repair facilities” are considered essential retail businesses under Executive Order 61, section C, paragraph 1, all service department employees must wear face coverings when working in customer-facing areas starting Friday (May 29).

What about employees in the sales department?

Executive Order 63 does not directly address requirements for non-essential brick and mortar retail employees, like those in the service/finance department. Therefore, it is our understanding the requirements on those employees in Executive Order 61 still apply. This means sales and finance employees must wear face coverings when facing customers and where physical distancing cannot be strictly maintained.

What are the exceptions to wearing a mask?

Individuals do not need to wear a mask while eating or drinking, while exercising, if they have trouble breathing or are unable to remove a mask without help, or if their health conditions prohibit wearing a face covering.

What happens if you don’t comply?

For those unwilling to abide by Executive Order 63, the Governor said enforcement will be through the Virginia Department of Health rather than state or local police. The restrictions aren’t about putting people in jail, he noted; rather, it’s about the health of everyone in the Commonwealth.

But that does not remove the threat to you and your business. Failure to comply could result in store closure. Disgruntled employees or individuals outside your organization may be eager to catch businesses pushing the envelope and/or breaking the rules, making your adherence to Executive Order 63 and other government requirements paramount. Governor Northam also stated he would discuss enforcement ideas — such as a civil fine — with the General Assembly, which could meet in a special session this summer.

Executive Order 63 also directs the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry to “promulgate emergency regulations and standards to control, prevent, and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.” We will closely monitor what happens with that and keep you informed of related developments.

The content on this webpage is not intended as legal advice. If you require legal advice, please contact your attorney. The content on this webpage reflects information at the time the content was created and, given the changing circumstances surrounding COVID-19, is subject to change at any time.