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Labor and Economic Opportunity

If an employee claims that they are medically unable to wear a face covering, what documentation or standard should the business owner/manager apply to verify that?

The plain language of Emergency Rule 7(5) & (6) does not contain an exception to the requirement that employees wear a face covering. However, employers have an additional obligation to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If an employee reports to the employer that he/she has a medical condition that makes it so he/she cannot wear a face covering, this would trigger the business’ obligation to engage the reasonable accommodation evaluation process outlined by the ADA. Under the ADA, an employee would be expected to present medical documentation from a medical provider regarding his/her medical condition and a restriction of being unable to wear a face covering. Per the ADA process, if the employee provides a legitimate medical reason for not being able to wear a face mask or covering, reasonable accommodations could include the following:

  • Providing the employee an unpaid leave of absence until face masks or covering are no longer required at work.
  • Allowing the employee to work remotely; or
  • Providing an alternative face mask or covering that is allowed by the employee’s medical condition.

In order to avoid MIOSHA enforcement action for an employer’s failure to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19, MIOSHA would require that the employer be able to show documentation that the employer has adhered to the ADA requirements by obtaining the medical documentation, including work restriction, from the employee to support the medical inability to wear a face covering. If an alternative type of covering were authorized for use by the employer as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, MIOSHA would also expect that the employer provide documentation to indicate it has:

A. Authorized the alternative covering for the employee as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA

B. Evaluated the use of the alternative covering in the context of its impact on employee risk to exposure to COVID-19 under its preparedness and response plan.

C. Performed any otherwise required hazard and PPE assessments related to the employee’s use of the alternative covering.

D. Determined that the wearing of the alternative type of covering does not create a hazardous exposure to the employee which has not already been addressed.