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Outlook for mask mandates for unvaccinated

Yahoo Finance's Alexis Keenan joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down the outlook for mask mandates for unvaccinated people.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Alexis Keenan has been looking into a legal issue-- whether your employer can mandate that you wear a mask if you haven't got vaccinated. So Alexis, do we have a definitive answer?

ALEXIS KEENAN: Pretty much, Adam. And that definitive answer, at least coming from the prevailing legal analysis, is that, yes, employers can make their workers, their employees wear a mask if they're unvaccinated and essentially treat them different than those vaccinated workers. And so, the knee jerk reaction, of course, strikes a lot of people to say, well, you know what? That sounds like it would be illegal.

But there still are some potential for legal snags. According to a recent AP survey that a lot of us have seen, approximately 34% of adults in US households, they say they don't plan on getting this vaccine, at least not quite yet. And so, experts, legal experts, they anticipate that some of these workers who head back to their shared workspaces and offices, that they'll argue that wearing a mask is really effectively forcing them to disclose not only their vaccination status, but also confidential medical information about themselves. And that type of medical information, employers have a responsibility to keep that private from other co-workers and other third parties.

Now the EEOC, though they haven't yet said if vaccination status itself qualifies as a confidential medical information, piece of information, though, if they do weigh in, legal experts say that they expect the commission will say it does not qualify. Now regardless, though, employment law attorneys, they say there's still-- this is kind of a poor argument, if you will. Because even vaccinated workers, they can choose to wear a mask, right? So the reason why a worker is wearing a mask would be essentially unknown. It could be a medical reason. It could be a religious reason. It could be a personal reason or just sheer fear of long-term effects that have yet to be known.

Added to that, employers also, of course, have a duty to keep their employment-- the workplace safe, the environment safe for the workers that do come there. So if the employers fail to adopt a policy that purports with what the CDC is saying should be done, they could be held legally responsible and face some workers' comp claims and other types of injury claims. Of course, that doesn't change that there could be big headaches just in terms of employee relations. If co-workers treat those wearing masks differently and either shame them or, in some way, make their work environment uncomfortable, that could lead down a whole other avenue of legal problems. Adam.