State Tightens Mask Mandate
Anyone who refuses to wear a mask or face covering in public in Connecticut because of a medical condition must now produce documentation from a licensed medical provider.
The documentation does not need to identify the medical condition and may also come from any state agency that provides services to people with emotional, intellectual, or physical disabilities, or someone authorized by those agencies.
Employees who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition must provide documentation to their employer, according to the Lamont administration’s Aug. 14 executive order.
Businesses also now have the right to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask or face covering.
The directive repeals a previous order issued April 17 and requires anyone in a public space in Connecticut—indoors or outdoors—to wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth when not maintaining at least six feet of social distancing.
Masks or face coverings are also required “when using the services of any taxi, car, livery, ride-sharing, or similar service, or any means of mass public transit or while within any semi-enclosed transit stop or waiting area.”
The order, designed to slow the spread and transmission of the coronavirus, does not apply to anyone under the age of two.
The order also indicates that David Lehman, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development would “issue or amend sector rules to establish size limits for private gatherings of people” who don’t live in the same home, regardless of whether the gathering was organized by a business.
The order notes that recent COVID-19 infection clusters have happened due to gatherings with too many people in attendance and too many ignoring mask requirements.
It also says that “some people who refuse to wear a mask have falsely claimed a medical reason” and that some organizations “philosophically opposed” to masks have urged their members and others to claim a medical exemption because the original order did not require documentation.
CBIA’s Mark Soycher called the revised mandate “a welcome change for the work environment,” noting the previous order created a number of workplace issues.
“It’s a measured approach that allows employers to request medical documentation to verify an employee’s claim that wearing a face mask jeopardizes their safety or health due to an underlying health condition,” he said.
“At the same time, it protects the worker’s medical privacy by prohibiting disclosure of the underlying health condition.”
Soycher suggests that traditional ADA principles require exploration of reasonable accommodation where someone’s inability to use a face mask is due to a medical condition that may fall within the definition of disability under the ADA, even if it results in some added COVID risk for others.
However, he notes, there are no legal requirements to accommodate someone claiming to be exempt from use of a face mask for purely personal, philosophical, or political reasons.
Soycher added that employers should be careful to avoid requests or set work standards that are discriminatory based on disability.
“If ultimately no alternate protective measures are feasible, the high risk of transmission of COVID would support a decision that the unmasked worker presents too great a risk,” he said. “At that point they may be a person with a disability.
“If they cannot perform the essential functions of a job, with or without reasonable accommodation such as remote work, and without causing harm or posing an imminent risk of harm to themselves or others, they are not a ‘qualified’ person with a disability and may be denied the opportunity to work.”
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