WASHINGTON — The changes to mask mandates have caused a lot of confusion.
While D.C., Maryland and Virginia have given the green light to take off masks in most cases, some businesses are not ready to take that step.
WUSA9 spoke with an attorney to determine if businesses have the right to still enforce masks even with restrictions being lifted.
The short answer is, yes. Businesses can still require customers to wear masks even if a state or local mandate is lifted.
Retired civil rights attorney and former ACLU Executive Director, Johnny Barnes, agreed that quickly changing guidelines can be confusing depending on where you live, work, shop or own a business.
While states and the District have lifted the mask mandate, the first thing he said people should understand is that local jurisdictions can still create their own rules.
“If you look at the hierarchy of power, that is the best way to figure out whether or not to wear the mask or not to wear the mask and conform to the law,” Barnes explained. “The constitution is overarching, the federal government next, then state government and local government.”
Depending on where you are going in the DMV, it is important to research the rules for the local jurisdiction before making your trip.
Then, privately-owned businesses have their own powers.
“They can legally do it as long as they don’t affront the constitution. They can do it because they’re a private entity. They can impose certain limits on their customers as long as the purpose is not one to control the content or control your expression then it is probably OK,” Barnes told WUSA9.
He highlighted the private businesses’ authority to the common ‘no shirt, no shoes, no service’ rules many are familiar with when going to businesses.
Barnes explained that as long as those rules are not discriminatory toward a group of people and are the same across the board for all people, businesses can still require people to wear masks if they want to.