Masks In The Workplace… It’s Not Just A Muslim Thing Anymore

- jim Young

Prior to Covid the fight for the right to wear a mask in the workplace was primarily limited to the Muslim community. Not so anymore. 

While the Government of Canada no longer requires the wearing of masks to prevent the spread of Covid, it is now generally acceptable and even encouraged by the Government to continue the usage of face masks.


That’s understandable right? It’s a matter of your health being more important than your religion.


Wrong! Religious beliefs are legal justification to refuse blood transfusions and covid (or any) vaccines for example. Evidently your religious beliefs trump your health beliefs in Canada.


The common denominator here is your “beliefs”. (Religion and Health are merely adjectives to further describe the area of your belief.)


Your beliefs dictate that how you manage your health will take care of you in this world and how you manage your religion will take care of you in the next. 


If you manage the first part well, it will delay the inevitability of the second.


Sarah Ben Sabat, a former waitress at Restaurant Henri in Montreal claims her manager told her “that if (she) wanted to continue working there (she) wouldn’t be able to wear her mask anymore.”


She says her boss told her she can't wear a mask, so she quit. (click to see the story)


Quebec’s Workplace Health and Safety Board told Ben Sabat it was up to her employer to decide if an employee could wear a mask or not, so she resigned.


To be fair, Henri Brasserie Francaise Management claims it “doesn’t require its staff members not to wear masks”, nor did they “demand Ben Sabat’s resignation over it.”


The right to wear a mask at work without a medical condition in Canada seems unclear during times when, in the government’s perspective, masks are not necessary.


In Manitoba and Saskatchewan employers can decide their own mask policies but there seems to be no set policy in other provinces.


Kasari Govender, B.C.’s human rights commissioner believes it’s a human rights issue. “I think from a human rights perspective, we have to allow people who want to mask for self protection and gain to protect those most vulnerable among them to do that.”


The Government of Canada’s official website under the heading “COVID-19 mask use: Advice for community settings” says this.



“We recommend that you wear a mask in public indoor settings. You should feel free to wear a mask even if it’s not required in your community or setting. This is an appropriate personal decision.”


And while there is no specific mention of the workplace or the rights of the employer to insist a mask either be worn or not worn, the government goes on to say “It’s especially important to wear a mask if you’re: … in a crowded or poorly ventilated setting.”


Notice the “or” in that statement. It would not be unreasonable to interpret this to read as “It’s especially important to wear a mask if you’re in a crowded setting even if it is well ventilated.” 

 

But that’s just the government’s advice… it’s not the law.


However under Canadian law, an employee also has the right to refuse dangerous work without threat of losing their job.



“Any employee subject to Part II of the Code has the right to refuse dangerous work as long as they have reasonable cause to believe that it presents a danger.”


Does the Government of Canada’s advice that it is “especially important to wear a mask if you’re in a crowded setting'' constitute “dangerous work?” I wonder.

Of course it can be a lengthy process if you choose to challenge every step that fails to produce the results you were hoping for. Maybe it’s just easier to do as Ben Sabat did and find another job.

I guess it just depends on how strong your “beliefs” really are. 


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