No mask, no service: Can businesses legally require customers to wear masks?

HOUSTON – No mask, no service: that is the policy at Trudy’s Hallmark store off Memorial Drive in Houston.

“We just think it’s the right thing to do right now for the safety of not only the community but our employees,” said store owner Priya Shields.

Shields said she implemented the mask policy after her employees requested it. She said 99% of the customers are on board with the policy. However, she said she has received hate mail from about a dozen people in opposition.

“One person said that we were acting like Hilter; like a German dictator,” said Shields. “Another one said, essentially you’re asking customers to put up a chain-link fence in an effort to stop mosquitoes.”

Face mask requirements are growing in popularity as retailers beginning to re-open.

The Skechers factory outlet store in Humble also requires customers to wear a face covering.

Philip Adams, who was shopping for a replacement pair of sneakers, was denied entry Thursday.

“It was infuriating; it was embarrassing,” he said. “I was completely humiliated.”

Adams said his COPD makes wearing a mask dangerous. He said the mask restricts his flow of oxygen and can cause him to pass out.

“Then I told the manager that it was a violation of federal law, the Americans with Disabilities [Act] Title III to be exact, and he still didn’t want to hear it,” he said.

On Friday, Adams said he filed an ADA discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to attorney Stephen Barth, it is legal for businesses and business owners to implement certain policies. Barth said per Texas law, mask policy is legal and enforceable – even in Adams’ case.

“Title III of the ADA requires a business to remove barriers of entry and to provide reasonable accommodations to a guest as long as those reasonable accommodations do not create unreasonable risks of harm or danger to other guests or employees," Barth said. "Their duty of extends not just to the guest with COPD, but to all of their guests and employees.”

Barth said to think of mask policies as similar to when restaurants prohibit customers from smoking or requiring a dress code.