Mika Imai answered this question for the Globe and Mail for its Nine to Five column on October 5th.
In Ontario, an employer must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. Based on current public health advice, this will typically mean mandatory mask use.
Employees also have the right to refuse unsafe work (though partially limited for certain jobs, such as healthcare workers) and employers are prohibited from punishing employees for a good faith refusal or, more broadly, for complaining of an unsafe workplace.
Some options to consider:
Raise the issue with someone else. If you’re unionized, tell your steward. If your workplace has a health and safety committee, tell them. Or, escalate your complaint within management. It may be that someone higher up will take your complaint seriously. Be sure to put your concerns in writing.
Alternatively, you could make a complaint to the Ministry of Labour. Complaints can be made anonymously. The Ministry may send an investigator who can issue orders against your employer if the workplace is deemed unsafe. Of course, there’s no guarantee the investigator will agree with your assessment. Ministry data shows that of 278 COVID-19 related work refusals from March to June, all but one was denied.
If you still don’t feel safe, you could ask to work from home or take a leave of absence. Keep in mind, though, unless there are special circumstances that put you or someone you care for at an elevated risk, there’s generally no obligation on the employer to permit the request.
No matter what, document the situation and date your notes.