The U.S. Attorney’s Office is warning Minnesotans of fraudulent face mask exemption documents.
Recent postings on social media of cards or fliers regarding the use of face masks and the Americans with Disabilities Act caused the U.S. Attorney's Office to issue the warning. On one of the cards, the text reads that the person possessing the card is exempt from an ordinance requiring face mask usage in public and that "wearing a face mask posses (sic) a mental and/or physical risk to me."
While some of the cards bear official looking seals and agency names, the postings, cards and flyers were not issued by the Department of Justice and are not endorsed by the department, a news release from U.S. Attorney Eric MacDonald states. Even more, misuse of the DOJ seal is a federal crime.
The cards aren't real, but they can create real damage to those who actually have a disability. Kody Olson, public policy director of the Minnesota Council on Disability, said anytime someone uses the ADA for personal gain creates distrust.
“Even for those who have a legitimate disability and can’t wear a face mask, the ADA does not allow you to endanger public health because of your disability,” Olson said. ”Even those who have legitimate disabilities who may not be able to put a mask on, even those folks can’t use the ADA to say they can’t wear a face mask in public spaces."
What someone can do, though, is request a reasonable accommodation so that they are not put in a situation where a mask is needed. A reasonable accommodation may look like curbside pickup or delivery.
Olson, who since the pandemic began has worked with the State Emergency Operations Center as a disability adviser, said the operations center sent out guidance to law enforcement making them aware of the issue of fraudulent exemptions and provided them with potential remedies. Olson said they are also making sure businesses know they do need to provide reasonable accommodations to those who can't wear face masks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth facial coverings in areas where social distancing guidelines may be difficult to maintain.
On Saturday, Rochester Mayor Kim Norton signed an amendment to the city’s existing emergency declaration requiring individuals to wear face masks in city owned and operated facilities. The order was to go before the Rochester City Council Monday afternoon. In order for the requirement to be extended past three days, the city council must affirm it.