The COVID Blog
January 19, 2021
LUDLOW, SHROPSHIRE (U.K.) — A potential legal precedent was set in a case involving a disabled person and COVID mask policies.
A disabled woman attempted to enter an establishment without a mask. She was told to leave because she was unable to cover her face. The woman, with the help of Kester Disability Rights, served the company a notice of forthcoming litigation. The company did not contest the fact that the woman was denied entry. It also acknowledged that the actions likely violated the U.K.’s Equality Act of 2010. A confidential, out-of-court settlement was negotiated for £7,000, or about $9,500. The settlement, including non-disclosure agreements, prevented the case from being filed in court.
Relevance to the United States
The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are the equivalent/related statutes in the United States. Your U.S. medical records and information are confidential, pursuant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Simply declaring “I’m exempt” or that you have a disability is sufficient to meet medical exemptions related to masks. Public humiliation and refusal of service are prima facie claims for relief if you’re able to prove in court that a disability or some other medical condition exists. It’s the same legal doctrine that outlaws “no coloreds allowed” and similar discriminatory business practices.
Video evidence, of course, makes these cases even stronger. Further, no company, particularly small businesses, want a messy public legal battle premised on a controversial issue like face masks. The foregoing case does not establish precedent that can be cited in a lawsuit. But it’s clear that the attorneys for the offending business understood the ramifications of a discrimination lawsuit about masks. It takes only one of these cases being filed in a court to open the Pandora’s Box. Thus, most companies will likely settle the case if the preponderance of evidence is in your favor.