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Mask Requirement Modified to Require Documentation for Medical Exemption

Mask refusers in Connecticut now must supply medical documentation in order to be in a public space or in the workplace without a mask or cloth face covering.  Executive Order 7NNN modifies the state’s earlier mask requirement, which provided that those with medical excuses need not wear a mask and could not be asked to supply documentation to support the refusal to do so.  The new executive order changes the mask rules in public places and in the workplace.

With respect to public places, the requirement provides, “Effective immediately, any person in a public place in Connecticut, whether indoors or outdoors, who does not maintain a safe social distance of approximately six feet from every other person shall cover their mouth and nose with a mask or cloth face-covering. In addition, individuals shall use a mask or cloth face covering 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.”

There are exemptions for children under 2, children in child care settings, and those with medical conditions.  With respect to medical conditions, the updated executive order provides, “Any person who declines to wear a mask or face covering because of a medical condition shall be exempt from this order and any requirement to wear masks in Sector Rules or other rules issued by the Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), but only if such person provides written documentation that the person is qualified for the exemption from a licensed medical provider, the Department of Developmental Services or other state agency that provides or supports services for people with emotional, intellectual or physical disabilities, or a person authorized by any such agency. Such documentation need not name or describe the condition that qualifies the person for the exemption.”

Updated guidance from DECD to implement this executive order includes new sector rules providing, “Employees that cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition must provide documentation to their employer.”  The sector rules also clarify, “Businesses have the right to refuse service to an individual who is not wearing a mask.”  Businesses should check their individual sector rules, as the provisions may vary.  For example, in essential businesses, employees may remove their masks in sparsely populated congregate settings in areas where workstations are 15 feet apart or greater.

From an employment perspective, the significant change is that employers can now obtain medical documentation to substantiate an employee’s refusal to wear a mask.  Employers should be attentive to both the ADA and the executive order in not requiring that the health care provider name or describe the condition that qualifies the person for the exemption.  However, employers are no longer required to simply take an employee’s word for it that wearing a mask poses a medical risk.  Employers should require the documentation and consider reasonable accommodations to allow the employee to remain in the workplace without posing a direct threat, such as by allowing the employee to work in an isolated area.

As new laws and regulations go into effect faster than ever, the labor and employment team at Berchem Moses PC is available to help you meet your legal obligations.  Please call us if we can be of assistance.