As Texas is dotted with mask mandates from both state and local governments, businesses are now caught in the middle of conflicting government orders, according to a former state legislator who practices healthcare law. The general public and businesses both seem largely unaware of medical and disability exemptions from the mask mandate, as well as the existence of those who the exemptions are in place to protect.
“[The Americans with Disabilities Act] prohibits businesses from asking about disabilities,” said healthcare lawyer and former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving). “A business is risking liability if they ask anything beyond whether a disability prevents them from wearing a mask.”
“Abbott has really put businesses in a tough position.”
On July 3, an individual mask mandate went into effect statewide—a reversal from Gov. Greg Abbott’s previous policy that such a mandate would violate individual liberty. Since that time, Texas lawmakers have spoken out against the mandate.
One part of the statewide mandate that has received little attention is Section 2, which has an exemption for “any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering.”
Mask mandates that hold private businesses responsible for customers and employees who don’t wear masks have put them in an uncomfortable and potentially risky situation when someone invokes the medical exemption.
Across social media, people are sharing their experiences of businesses asking about their disability or denying them service when they invoke the exemption. Texas Scorecard recently reported that a mother who tried invoking the medical exemption in a local mask mandate was denied service, harassed by others in person and online, and had the police called on her. Once a private business asks a customer to leave, they can be charged with criminal trespass if they refuse, putting those with medical issues or disabilities preventing them from wearing a mask in a tough spot.
Few media organizations are reporting on those with medical issues or disabilities encountering friction from places of business and their own neighbors for not wearing a mask. Despite the existence of medical exemptions, most seem unaware of them and those it exists for. A woman named Jodie recently implored elected officials to inform the public about those who cannot wear a mask.
If you or anyone you know have had a similar experience from government mandates in response to the coronavirus, we’d like to hear from you. Please contact us at [email protected].