Fact check: Neither ADA nor Civil Rights Act offer a blanket exemption to mask, vaccine requirements

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Claim: Disability and civil rights laws protect the right to shop without a mask or proof of vaccination

Critics of masks and vaccination requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic have falsely claimed that many laws exempt them from generally applicable health protocols.

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The latest claim uses a misguided interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to encourage others not to follow occupations that require a face covering upon entry or proof of vaccination .

“My legal right to enter, shop and service this establishment – without covering my face or showing proof of (vaccination) – is protected by state and federal law,” the image claimed Instagram post of August 23.


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Image falsely claims that federal regulations protect individuals from complying with businesses’ mask and vaccine requirements.

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The Post cites several laws, including ADA Title III Regulations and federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

However, experts say none of these laws provide full protection from the mask requirement or vaccine requirements.

The card comes from a website that has sold mask discount cards before

The text below the image urges viewers to visit TheHealthyAmerican.org.

this website sold supposed religious mask mandate discount card in August 2020. Those cards falsely claimed to exempt customers from masks under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

USA Today dismissed that claim and several others who urged the public to avoid mask and vaccine requirements by claiming Exemption Under ADAhandjob Fourth and Fifth Amendments And this Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Experts have said none of these laws provide individuals with blanket protection from the mask mandate or regulations that require customers to show proof of vaccination.

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Healthy American founder Peggy Hall told Granthshala she stands by the claims made in the card and disagrees with legal experts who said otherwise.

“Your legal experts are not the authors of the Constitution,” she said.

Legal experts say ADA doesn’t exempt individuals from following public health guidelines

Several disability law experts told Granthshala that the card misrepresents the ADA and has no legal basis for its claims.

“It’s a fake card that has no rights,” said peter blancProfessor of Disability and Social Policy at Syracuse University. “There is no blanket card that will protect someone from following a mask order or showing proof of vaccination.”

robert dinerstein, director of American University’s Disability Rights Law Clinic, told Granthshala that the post violates rules unrelated to the ADA and the Civil Rights Act. He said neither can be implemented as a blanket exemption from mask mandates or requirements that ask customers to show proof of vaccination.

The Yelp app shows a restaurant listing that says, "Proof of vaccination required."

The ADA prohibits public housing from denying opportunities to people with disabilities or providing unnecessary separate and unequal status based on their disability.

Experts agree that the rules set by the ADA only apply to housing for people with disabilities.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t cover everyone. It also doesn’t cover every person with a functional impairment,” said the law professor at the University of Pennsylvania Jasmine Harris. “Protected classes of persons with disabilities under the ADA must meet the legal definition of disability as defined by Congress.”

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But this does not mean that people with disabilities are exempted from applicable laws to protect public health. under the ADA, businesses are not required to provide services or accommodation if “that person is a direct threat to the health or safety of others.”

Instead, businesses should offer disabled patrons with appropriate modifications to public housing, if possible.

Dinerstein Said it may sound like a restaurant requiring guests who can’t be vaccinated safely to follow social distancing or eat out.

Blank said another example might be a grocery store that offers curbside pickup to customers who couldn’t wear face coverings because of disabilities.

harris said One amendment may sound like home delivery to those who cannot safely follow health guidelines in stores.

Customers wait to show proof of vaccination before entering the Waterbar restaurant on Friday, August 20, 2021 in San Francisco.  San Francisco became the first major city in the country to require proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 on Friday for people dining inside restaurants, working out at a gym or attending indoor concerts.  (AP Photo / Eric Risberg)

“Of course, public accommodation space, while latitude has been given to set objective safety criteria, such criteria should be based on objective data/needs and should not be used as an excuse to discriminate or to discriminate against any person. These requirements must be based on generalizations or stereotypes about disability.” Harris said. “Given the CDC’s research, data and guidance, the mask requirements are very likely to meet the standard of fairness.”

According to DinersteinEven people with disabilities cannot use the ADA as a broad exemption from the security norms that they personally oppose.

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“If a disabled person does not wish to wear a mask or disclose their vaccination status simply because of their disability, but for any other reason – eg, a belief in liberalism – this would not be a valid ADA claim,” he said. .

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also does not apply

Experts say that the other law referred to in the card, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, also does not give complete exemption to individuals.

“The Civil Rights Act would only apply if the establishment refused to serve a potential customer on the basis of race or gender – or, now, sexual orientation – and not because of a disability,” Dinerstein said.

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

In August 2020, several other law professors told Granthshala The Civil Rights Act does not protect anyone from a mask mandate as long as the rules are neutral and generally applicable.

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“Contrary to what this card is saying, federal law cannot exempt you from neutral, generally applicable state law,” said Noah Feldman, a constitutional studies specialist at Harvard Law School.

Our Rating: Wrong

Based on our research, we believe the claim that federal disability and other civil rights laws protect the right to shop without a mask or proof of vaccination. Legal experts agree that the ADA cannot be used as a mask mandate for anyone or a complete exemption from vaccine requirements. The ADA only protects those who meet the legal definition of being disabled from discrimination. Even people with disabilities cannot use the ADA as a complete exemption from public health guidelines and requirements. Instead, stores should offer reasonable modifications for customers who cannot medically follow public health guidance so that they can obtain goods and services safely without risking the health of others. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of race, sex and sexual orientation. Neutral and generally applicable mask mandates and vaccine requirements do not violate the Civil Rights Act.

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