Can the government legally force you to wear a mask?
The Poynter Institute
The answer is “yes.” In a pandemic, governments have the authority to do a lot of things that would otherwise be questionable.
Think of it like this: The government has the right to ban smoking in public places because your smoking can affect my health. And some places have signs that say, “No shirt, no shoes, no service.” Just add “no mask” to the sign.
However, there are exceptions. If you cannot wear a mask for health reasons or if you are in a “protected class,” then you might get a mask pass. Syracuse.com turned to a prosecutor for advice:
“All businesses have the right to refuse service so long as it is not violating one of those protected classes,” said Robert Mascari, chief assistant district attorney in Madison County. “You can’t refuse to serve me because I’m half Italian and half Irish. You can refuse to serve me if I’m being an idiot.”
Anti-maskers have claimed a “disability” to avoid wearing face masks. Doron Dorfmann, a Syracuse University law professor who specializes in disability law, told Syracuse.com: “There may be legitimate disabilities that would prevent someone from wearing a mask: Someone with autism who has sensory issues, for example, or someone with a respiratory problem for which a mask would make breathing difficult.”
Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, he said, store managers must be cautious in questioning anyone who says they have a disability. The manager, for example, can’t ask what the disability is.
Shop keepers can ask two questions of that person, Dorfman said: “Is (not wearing a mask) an accommodation? What kind of benefit do you get from not wearing a mask?”