Solve It 7: Frequently asked questions about legal rights related to COVID-19

(WHDH) — State leaders have been recommending people wear masks when they’re out in public, but several cities and towns are taking it a step further by requiring masks be worn. If you don’t wear a face covering, you could be fined hundreds of dollars. But can local governments do this? According to our legal expert, the answer is yes.

“Yes they can,” says Quincy-based lawyer Bob Harnais. “They can actually fine you civilly for not wearing a mask. They can require [you] to. Some cities and towns are in fact doing it right now.”

These fines would be civil in nature and not criminal, Harnais points out.

Harnais is also helping to answer frequently asked questions from viewers during this unprecedented time.

Q: Do stores and businesses have a right to prohibit people from entering their building if their faces aren’t covered?
A: “Absolutely. They have the right as long as they do it equally across the board and make everybody wear a mask, yes they can.”

Q: A Worcester pastor recently defied Governor Charlie Baker’s order banning gatherings of 10 or more people by holding church services this week. He says he has the right to do so. Are churches exempt from the governor’s order?
A: “The government has the right to protect the citizens. On the other hand a church has the right to religious services. It’s gonna be a battle I think in court. I’m gonna say it’s up in the air right now.”

Q: Unemployment continues at record-high numbers, with millions of people out of work. Some have lost their jobs because of the pandemic while others can’t work because businesses are closed. But what about parents who still have jobs but can’t work because daycares are closed. Are they eligible to receive unemployment benefits?
A: “Yes. If they can show that they left their work due to urgent, compelling, necessary circumstances, yes they would be able to.”

If you have questions related to the coronavirus, give us a call at 617-367-7777 or send us an email to

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