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Why the ADA Doesn’t Exempt You from Wearing a Mask

Americans with a disability or associated with someone who has a disability need to be aware of a scam that is currently active during the COVID-19 crisis. The scam involves false documents that seek to provide authority from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) that people with a disability are exempt from the requirement to wear a facemask during the pandemic.

The DOJ made clear in a recent press release that any flyers or postings, whether in print, on the web, or through social medica that assert a mask-exemption are false and fraudulent. Many of these flyers and announcements include the US DOJ seal and an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) phone number – both of which are unauthorized. The release specifically says: “The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations.”

The Federal Trade Commission states that many states are now requiring that people wear masks/face coverings in places open to the public. One form, among other forms of false documents, are cards with the DOJ Seal. There are no DOJ issued cards or cards by any other agency that provide automatic exemptions.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), according to Disability Scoop, recommends that people with a disability speak with their local physician for advice. Face coverings are not recommended by the CDC for children under two or anyone “who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”

Current disability laws and protections

The ADA is a federal law designed to protect people with a disability or in a relationship with someone with a disability from discrimination in:

  • Employment
  • State and local government
  • Public accommodations
  • Commercial facilities
  • Transportation
  • Telecommunications

A person with a disability is someone:

  • With a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits at least one major life activity
  • Who has a history or record of such impairment
  • Who is perceived by others at having such an impairment

There are several federal laws that were enacted to protect workers from discrimination. These laws, according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission include:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act
  • The Rehabilitation Act
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act
  • The Generic Nondiscrimination Act

All these laws continue to apply during the COVID-19 pandemic, though they should not interfere with or prevent employers from following the CDC guidelines or the guidelines of state and local public health authorities.

At Gainsberg Law P.C., we know which laws protect people with disabilities and when violations of the laws occur. We work to hold employers who violated these federal and state laws accountable for the violations. Damages may include statutory damages, legal fees, and other economic losses. For help understanding your employee rights, call Gainsberg Law in Chicago at 312.600.9585 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.