Not Wearing a Mask and the ADA

Friends were discussing what to do when a person without a protective mask demands to enter a store or business because of an unspecified disability.

You should learn what the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says about reasonable accommodations like not wearing a mask during this pandemic. In brief, the operative words are “reasonable” and “accommodation”!

Reasonable: no, store-owners don’t have to go far out of their way to make an accommodation, but they have to try to make a reasonable effort.

Accommodation: no, it’s not going to be the same as what a person without a disability can do, it’ll be an accommodation like maybe instead of shopping in the store, they’ll get curbside assistance, telephone support or another way of helping them.

This is a type of problem that happens all the time. When, for example, a business isn’t wheelchair accessible for any of a variety of reasons, the business usually has to figure out some reasonable accommodation. It’s a whole body of law that a maskless bandit probably doesn’t actually want to get involved in but a person suffering from a real condition will be familiar with and thankful that you are concerned about. Stopping people at the door and saying “I’m sorry, you can’t come in without a mask. How can I provide a reasonable accommodation to your disability?” is legal and legit.

This link was shown to me and has a lot more in-depth details: https://www.adasoutheast.org/ada/publications/legal/ada-and-face-mask-policies.php

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Update: my friend Rich pointed out: There’s specific wording in the ADA that it doesn’t apply to mandates in a public health emergency. Also, on whether it’s ‘Constitutional’, It DID go to court, the Supreme Court ruled on it, and Jacobson v. Massachusetts is still the controlling case (please correct if that’s wrong, I looked like crazy and that’s what I found) Note that this case was decided in 1905.

My response: I looked up Jacobson v. Massachusetts, Nice! https://www.oyez.org/cases/1900-1940/197us11. (TL;DR: Can you refuse to get the smallpox vaccine? No, you cannot”

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