A union representing nurses said there was nothing rebellious about four nurses at Waikato Hospital refusing to wear face masks at work.
A district health board policy states wearing masks is compulsory for non-vaccinated workers.
The Nurses Organisation said the nurses were suspended on Friday for not wearing the protective equipment.
Industrial advisor Lesley Harry said two of the nurses have returned to work after agreeing to wear face masks, and the other two have been offered redeployment for the rest of the influenza season.
Ms Harry said they had refused to wear the masks for practical reasons.
"The concern that nurses have is that the wearing of masks at all times when dealing with patients prohibit their ability to communicate," Ms Harry said.
"With nursing, a lot of communication is through facial expression and so on."