July 5, 2020
Dallas Morning News – Wearing masks, a practice that health experts say is one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of COVID-19, is now required across the state.
But what if you’re unable to wear a mask because of a legitimate medical condition or disability? Can a business refuse to serve you? Here’s what you need to know.
Who isn’t required to wear a mask?
State and local mandates requiring masks acknowledge that there are certain groups of people who can’t safely wear one.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says children under 2 and people who have trouble breathing, are unconscious, incapacitated or can’t take off a mask without help shouldn’t wear one.
Local mandates have followed that guidance; Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide mandate says anyone under 10 or who has a medical condition or disability that prevents them from safely wearing a mask is exempt from the order.
Health experts have said legitimate health problems can include chronic asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe.
Other conditions that could make wearing a mask difficult could include people who have post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety or claustrophobia, or someone with autism who is sensitive to touch and texture.
Do I have to tell a business about my disability?
A store manager is not able to ask people what their disabilities are, Doron Dorfman, a law professor at Syracuse University who specializes in disability law, told Syracuse.com.
Dorfman said business owners or managers can generally only ask two questions, “Is … [not wearing a mask] an accommodation?,” and “What kind of benefit do you get from not wearing a mask?”
He said asking those questions can help business owners defend themselves in the case of a discrimination lawsuit and they can help a business make accomodations for the person who isn’t wearing a mask.
Viral videos and posts in recent weeks have claimed that customers don’t have to prove or disclose their disability under HIPPA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. But legal experts say that isn’t the case … Read more.