I asked recently about the mask rules in airports, but in my travels recently I'm more baffled that private companies are requiring masks under threat of refused service, and even permanent refusal into the future. Primarily, I've noticed some airlines advertise their own mask rules that customers must agree to, and the taxi apps (eg Uber, Lyft) make you actually check a box "I am wearing a mask" before you can call a ride. Apparently I broke the rule add the driver pulled up, and he must have alerted the company, who in turn threatened to ban me permanently from their service if I did it again.

I personally think these corporate rules are dubious, especially when use of their services is in an area where no such government orders are in place. I figure there must be some limits on "dress codes" or other non-covid justifications they might come up with.

Under the circumstances, I understand why, but I've heard many times a judge argue in his jurisprudence that circumstances cannot justify any actions otherwise illegal, so thus laws would have to be changed first.

So, I expect eventually someone will sue a company over its mask rules, but what legal argument would they likely give?

  • 7
    Have you heard “no shirt no shoes - no service” or noticed little signs that say “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” ? This is freedom - the freedom to contract, as Trish answers. Formally worshiped by conservatives. Nov 8, 2021 at 1:27
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    @GeorgeWhite If you're going to turn this political, you'll earn an unfriendly flag from me. I'm not interested in your signaling.
    – 608
    Nov 8, 2021 at 2:42
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    Are you expecting that some valid legal arguments must exist against something merely because you think it is dubious?
    – Greendrake
    Nov 8, 2021 at 2:49
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    @608. My opinion is that your initial question betrayed a political bent since it is typically conservatives who presume there must be a reason company’s can’t set a COVID policy for themselves. In other contexts, conservatives typically have sided with company’s being free to set rules for whom they deal with. I should have said that in a straightforward manner if I was to express that thought. Nov 8, 2021 at 3:44
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    @GeorgeWhite Any political bent is surely read in. Both sides complain aplenty about exactly the same things, but seemingly only when they don't like the outcomes. In the case of conservatives complaining about masks, they also complained much about cakes, yet those are contradicting opinions, mostly.
    – 608
    Nov 8, 2021 at 3:47

3 Answers 3


None because the principle is Freedom to contract

There is a general right of any being (natural like a person or even a company) to contract with anyone. Buying someone's service is a contract.

A contract forms when:

  • They offer something
  • You offer something
  • Both sides agree on it. (meeting of the minds)

It is totally legal for a company to make wears a mask in our place of business a part of either being admitted onto the property or agreeing to contract with you. Noncompliance means as a result that they don't agree to serve you and don't offer to you. In fact, they explicitly reject to contract with you unless you wear a mask, which is their right unless there is a law that would specifically make that reason illegal.

There are laws that reduce the freedom of contract, such as the civil right act (protected classes, such as religion, race, sex and more), the Americans with disabilities act (demanding reasonable accommodation), and labor laws (outlawing labor practices or limiting the amount of work or minimum payment) as well as anti-discrimination laws (establishing further classes).

However note, that laws need to be written in such a way that they don't discriminate against the company either! One case where freedom to contract was attacked using an anti-discrimination law was Masterpiece Cakeshop - which was decided on first amendment grounds based on the rights of the owner: the law can't force someone to make a product he would not support the message of.

Currently, there might only be some ordinance that bans mask policies in Texas, but it is dubious if that might be even an enforceable order from the Texas governor - Especially since OSHA just made adjustments to standards and mandates on the federal level - which include adjustments to respiratory protection fields.

  • See West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish et seq.
    – user6726
    Nov 8, 2021 at 1:32
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    @user6726 that was a minimum wage case of 1937 - irrelevant to the topic. There was law that made the contracts sought by the hotel illegal. Here there is no law in most of the states. In general, the question is about hiring a company that doesn't want to be hired unless you do X, making it more akin to Masterpiece Cakeshop.
    – Trish
    Nov 8, 2021 at 1:34
  • Apparently you are not aware of the history of how freedom of contract was overturned in the US. Look at the big picture, not the specific holdings.
    – user6726
    Nov 8, 2021 at 1:49
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    @user6726 in the department of "Customer buying service" it is still the guiding principle: unless a contract is illegal, it is valid.
    – Trish
    Nov 8, 2021 at 1:54
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    @608 Reasonable means 'within reason'. For example, trying to go maskless via the "reasonable accommodation" in the ADA, (which is not applicable to the general public!) would need you to prove that you can't wear a mask for medical reasons (Religion is not a disability!). Now, an accommodation could take the shape of a transport that does have separate compartments, but that can't be installed on the fly, is far more expensive than the single fare and thus is not a reasonable accommodation. In fact, there might be no reasonable accommodation in this example.
    – Trish
    Nov 8, 2021 at 4:54

I personally think these corporate rules are dubious, especially when use of their services is in an area where no such government orders are in place. I figure there must be some limits on "dress codes" or other non-covid justifications they might come up with.

The law does not agree with you. There are no such limitations (but some states have recently attempted to adopt such regulations by executive order, such as Florida). The attempts to impose such limitations have mostly been struck down by the courts.

For example, a corporate covid vaccination policy of United Airlines was recently upheld in the face of a court challenge.

  • The upholding of the United vaccination policy is striking, but very different in a few ways. First, it involves employment. Second, it's vaccines (which to my mind is much more personally invasive than masks, so the ruling surprises me). I wonder how the judge rules "forced unpaid leave" as not causing harm, yet chastised United for "apathy, if not antipathy," for their employees. Maybe I need a new question on "harm".
    – 608
    Apr 8 at 15:56

The question reads:

I personally think these corporate rules are dubious, especially when use of their services is in an area where no such government orders are in place. I figure there must be some limits on "dress codes" or other non-covid justifications they might come up with.

You figure incorrectly. Under US laws, businesses are generally free to determine who they will do business with, and under what conditions, subject to anti-descrimnaion laws and other valid laws. "non-mask-wearers" is not a protected class under any such law to date. A state could pass such a law, requiring a business to serve those who refuse to wear masks in spite of business policies. No US state has yet done so. In a few states governors have attempted to create such rules by Executive Order, but those attempts have largely been voided by the courts.

  • What is the basis again for reconciling anti discrimination with freedom to contract (or not)?
    – Joseph P.
    Apr 10 at 18:04
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    @Joseph P "freedom of Contract" is always subject to current laws. A conrsact to comit a crime si not binding or lawful. A contract that violates a law or regulation, such as a limit on working hours, or an anti-discrimination provision, is in many cases void. Landlord/tenant law often specifies certain legal duties which may not be waived or modified by the terms of a lease. In fact even offering a lease which purports to waive such laws may be a crime in itself. So "freedom of contract" is generally subordinate to current law. [...] Apr 10 at 18:10
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    [...] @Joseph P Back in the there were several decisions of the US Supreme court which elevate "freedom of contract" into a ruling constitutional right. These decisions struck down regulations of workign hours and conditions as violations of "freedom of contract". These decisions were all overruled in the later 1930s, and are no longer good law. Indeed they helped give "substantive due process" a very bad name in legal circles. Apr 10 at 18:14
  • Okay, so a tenancy lease in which a tenant, secretly knowing their rights, deceptively entering into a contract with a greedy landlord who is hopelessly ignorant and apathetic of the laws that contains terms favouring the landlord but which are statutorily unfair and unenforceable which the landlord may not have agreed to the contract without would still go by the statutorily prescribed terms despite this seemingly fundamentally important "meeting of the minds"?
    – Joseph P.
    Apr 10 at 18:15
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    @Joseph P Yes I did, sorry, that should have read "back in the 1920s nd early 1930s there were..." Apr 10 at 18:23

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