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Conditions that qualify as mask exemptions have smaller scope than many realize

Conditions that qualify as mask exemptions have smaller scope than many realize
Posted at 11:15 AM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 16:26:50-04

There's some misunderstanding about medical exemptions to wearing masks.

A legal expert tells us the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it so businesses must make reasonable accommodations to everyone. The key word there is reasonable.

“The problem with what's going on right now and some of the things that have been going around the internet, is that the advice, kind of spurious advice that's being put forth is to use the provision for reasonable accommodation as a sword rather than as a shield,” said David Tarrien, an associate professor at WMU-Cooley Law School.

Tarrien says the conditions that qualify as a mask exemption have a smaller scope than many realize. For example, he says asthma patients likely do not fall under that scope. But later stages of pulmonary respiratory disease, emphysema, or a serious mobility issue can be "legitimate" reasons.

Furthermore, you could face repercussions for lying.

“If they're claiming that they have a disability and they don't have a disability, if that is found out, then there are criminal and civil penalties for that,” said Tarrien.

As for privacy concerns, Tarrien says store employees are allowed to ask customers why they're not wearing a mask. If you refuse to answer, they may refuse entry.

Even if you give a legitimate reason to not wear a mask, you may still be refused entry. That's because the ADA does not apply if there's a “direct threat” to someone's health or safety.

Tarrien says HIPPA privacy laws also do not apply in this kind of situation. That only protects your information from being shared inappropriately among medical facilities.