COVID Masks And Disability Laws

I've only talked about disability laws in the online space and have yet to talk about how those laws apply to all physical locations/bricker and mortars, businesses, employers, schools, malls, libraries, restaurants, etc. I ran across a FB post that was about ADA laws and a brick and mortar business and I wanted to share this since many of you have physical locations and may not be sure how to navigate requiring employees and patrons to wear a mask.


So this post was a brick and mortar business that started requiring everyone who comes into their business to wear a mask. Someone made a comment that doing so violated ADA laws (American's with Disabilities Act) and if someone had a disability and requested reasonable accommodation from them, that they would not have to wear a mask and if they still required them to do so, they would be violating ADA.


Going forward, I am only going to say "business" to save space, but I am meaning businesses, employers, schools, malls, brick and mortar stores, libraries, restaurants, co-working spaces, and anything else you can think of.



To give context, the ADA requires businesses to provide reasonable accommodations to those who are protected under the act. The act specifically states "reasonable accommodation". The accommodation request cannot put undue hardship on the location such as an entire remodel of the location, $100,000+ piece of equipment (large businesses may be able to do this, and that's amazing but in most cases, it still wouldn't be considered unreasonable), a business that does not have a public restroom build one.


Reasonable accommodations could be things like skipping a line, giving someone a chair if there is not a chair readily available, buy an employee a new chair that has back support/armrests, accessibility to the bathroom for an employee who uses a wheelchair, a larger computer screen, etc. These requests are not entirely cut and dry, the act does give some examples, but the request should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.


A bigger bathroom stall is a large cost, and it would depend on the location just a bit, but if it is an employer with an employee that uses a wheelchair, they would need to find a way to accommodate that request.


I asked my last employer for a bigger computer screen - mine was maybe 13 inches and they gave me the biggest screens I had ever seen, two of them. And, I only asked for ones we had in storage that were a few years old but a few inches bigger. That may have been the only thing they did right by me. 😬 You don't have to get them a brand-spankin' new item by any means, but it obvs needs to work.



Now, if your business is requiring everyone to wear a mask, that does not violate any disability law, even if there is a reasonable accommodation request. Why? Because you are requiring everyone to wear a mask. If you only required someone with a disability to do so, or someone of a certain race, gender, religion (several other laws on that topic) then it would violate ADA. The keyword here is everyone.


You can kind of think of it as "No shoes, no shirt, no service". You have the right to refuse service to anyone (that is not in a protected class) provided it is not discriminatory in reason. If the patron makes a fuss and refuses to leave, you actually have the right to contact the authorities.




If your state is requiring everyone to wear a mask while they are out, ADA laws

are basically a moot point in this scenario.


Side note, if you are working with a client and go to their business for whatever reason, ADA does not apply to independent contractors. If they terminate the contract/partnership due to a disability and the request, that is discrimination. The American's with Disabilities Act is incredibly in-depth, and it is your responsibility as a business owner to know what applies to you. What posters you must have in an easily accessible location for your employees, what written policies you must have in place, what training you have to take, and how often and lots more.


Man, there is so much that applies to us and our businesses it is kind of hard to keep up with. When we were employees we didn't have to worry about any of this. But, that is what I'm here for and hopefully, it is helping you. I'll be sure to add ADA information, that is not just about the online world, a lot more.


If you have a specific question or scenario, leave a comment or you can email me.



-MW




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This is not legal advice, informational only. This blog does it constitute a

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