Don’t want to mask up? Burnaby businesses can absolutely refuse entry

Numerous Burnaby business have announced recently that customers must wear a mask in order to enter.

Those businesses include Whole Foods, T&T and Costco in Burnaby.

In reaction, some NOW readers commented on our Facebook page that it didn’t matter if businesses asked customers to wear masks because they couldn’t “legally” deny them access.

“I’d like to see them try and stop me,” wrote one post on the NOW’s Facebook page.

But Richard Powers, a University of Toronto associate professor with expertise in business law, says the policy is well within a company's rights.

"The safety of retail workers and staff trumps the customers’ right to refuse wearing a mask," he said. "Businesses have a legal responsibility to create a safe working environment and if having people wear masks is a reasonable accommodation, which I think it is, to provide that safe environment, I believe that the retailer can refuse entry to someone who will not don a mask."

But the right to refuse entry to a customer doesn’t mean businesses are going to face serious concerns from Burnaby residents with health conditions that are aggravated by masks.

A T&T customer receives a temperature check. File photo

Wearing a mask could contribute to an asthma attack for some, while others with autism spectrum disorder may have trouble with sensory processing, as well as tactile, olfactory and nervous-system hypersensitivity that wearing a mask could trigger.

"Be very aware of those with different types of cognitive, intellectual disabilities, those who are hearing impaired and others," Canada's top health official said recently.

"Don't assume that someone who isn't wearing a mask or is wearing something different doesn’t have an actual reason for it," chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said.

Powers believes this is a sign some retailers could be in for a fight.

"Someone will challenge that on whatever grounds — discrimination perhaps — and that creates a hassle for the retailer and an expense, if they choose to fight it," he said.

  • With files from the Canadian Press

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinbox44.


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