BBB: don't fall for "face mask exempt" card

Posted at 9:57 AM, Jul 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 08:40:36-04

BOISE, Idaho — You might have seen a new card or flyer floating around your social media feeds that claims the owner is "face mask exempt," but be warned--those are fake.

The Better Business Bureau reports the card is linked to a group calling itself the Freedom to Breathe Agency. The cards claim the holder is lawfully exempted from wearing a mask under the Americans with Disabilities Act--a claim that simply isn't valid. The card also claims the ADA forbids asking about the card holder's health condition that's allegedly aggravated by wearing a mask. The card threatens that if questions are asked, financial penalties of up to $75,000 or higher can be levied.

"They're parsing words, and the way that it's worded would make you interpret that they're stating that, but all they're doing it putting those names in the text so that you see it and then infer that they're actually trying to be backed by these organizations," explains Dale Dixon, Chief Innovation Officer with the Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific. "Look closely at these types of images that show up on your social media feeds, and read it with a level of skepticism."

The U.S. Justice Department, as well as the ADA, is now issuing a warning regarding the exemption cards and flyers as that information has not been endorsed by the DOJ. Health experts and the DOJ are also urging the public not to believe the claim that wearing a mask leads to mental or physical risk, as described by the exemption card.

"You think about how long we have been wearing masks in the workplace. It goes so far back beyond COVID. I'm thinking about the number of people who work in auto body shops and wear masks around paint. We've got some brilliant, smart, hard-working people who wear masks every day at work to protect them in a number of areas, and so this is one of those things that when you just take it at face value can lead somebody to think otherwise," says Dixon.

The CDC recommends wearing a face mask when going out in public as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19, along with social distancing and hand washing. More tips to stay healthy can be found here.

BBB has a number of resources to help business owners here. You can find more on the BBB website.