'I thought it was a joke': Canada Post employee sent home for wearing N95 mask instead of company-provided cloth or disposable mask

A Winnipeg man who works for Canada Post as a mail carrier said he was sent home for the type of mask he was wearing, despite it being better than the company's masks.

Corey Gallagher said he went back to work on Monday after having some time off over the holidays.

When he showed up at work, he was wearing an N95 mask.

"Right away a supervisor came up to me and told me I can't wear that mask," said Gallagher.

"I didn't really understand, I thought it was a joke at first, like 'Why can't I wear this when the ones you are providing are cloth.'"

He said he wasn't going to change his mask and started to sort his mail for the day. During his sorting process, he had multiple supervisors approach him asking him if he needed a mask and then telling him he couldn't wear the one he had.

"I still didn't change my mask, went about my day, just kind of ignored it. Went out, delivered my mail, came back and then it was the same thing, only this time it was the head superintendent saying I can't."

The following day, Gallagher said he showed up wearing the same mask and was eventually told to leave after refusing to wear a company provided mask.

In an email to CTV News, a spokesperson for Canada Post said the company follows recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada, noting the agency supports people wearing non-medical masks that have at least two layers of woven fabric with a third middle layer of filter fabric or a disposable mask.

"The company fully supports these guidelines and therefore requires all employees to wear a Canada Post-supplied face covering, which is either a reusable cloth face covering or a disposable medical mask," the spokesperson said.

They added if an employee doesn't have a mask that Canada Post provides, there are additional masks on hand and if the employee still doesn't wear the company provided mask they are told to leave.

Gallagher feels this practice is behind what the government now recommends and that the policy should change.

"It's kind of disappointing that we are so far behind on the Canadian standards," said Gallagher, adding N95 masks aren't new and people across the country have been wearing them for quite some time.”

Gallagher, who said he was suspended without pay for the day he was sent home, said there are reasons why he wears an N95 mask compared to a cloth mask.

He said his wife is immunocompromised and he has a child who is not old enough to be vaccinated.

"This is personal. I'd like to keep my family safe if I can."

Gallagher has been told he can wear his mask outside of the Canada Post facility but he must wear the supplied mask in the facility.

In the meantime, Gallagher said he is going to be using his personal days and staying home until he is given a better reason for why he can't wear a more protective mask than what is being provided.

Jan Simpson, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), said in a statement the union is aware and concerned about the Crown corporation not allowing some workers to wear N95 masks. She said N95s offer more protection for workers, especially as the Omicron variant spreads.

“The Union has asked Canada Post to provide N95 masks or suitable alternatives to all postal workers, and at the very least, allow those who’ve purchased their own N95 or KN95 masks to wear them,” Simpson said. “As COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly, Canada Post Corporation should be doing everything in its power to protect postal workers, who continue to help people stay home and stay safe.”