Chicago, IL asked in Employment Law and Elder Law for Illinois

Q: My question is concerning the effects on a 64 year old woman from wearing a mask at a full time job.

I’ve been wearing the required mask at work since March 2020. We were informed it is now a requirement for employment. I do not work in the general public. I’ve reported to my manager of having a sore scratchy throat, & congestion, but now it’s a burning in my chest with trouble breathing during & after wearing. This sensation comes and goes.

I Have also spoken with HR. It has not been suggested to take off the mask, but instead to go to the doctor. I am not sick, but am having side effects from wearing the mask. Last Dec-Jan I was very sick and pretty sure it was the virus. Do I have any recourse or do I just have to wear the mask? Can my employer force me to go to the doctor now? I appreciate any help, as I am very stressed out by this and will probably retire earlier than planned. Thank you so much.

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1 Lawyer Answer
George W. Svoboda
George W. Svoboda
  • Grayslake, IL
  • Licensed in Illinois

A: I'm sorry for your situation. You should go to the doctor and you should get tested. There is no clear evidence that reinfection is not possible. You described symptoms that your employer may believe warrants a test for the virus. You do not have to go to the doctor, but your employer may prohibit you from coming back to work if you don't go. Yes, your employer can require a mask to come to work. If you believe you have a mask disability, you will need to prove it with more than your statement. You will need a doctor to verify and attest to it. Whether this will rise to the level of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is open to debate. If you have a disability, you and your employer are supposed to engage in a conversation about a reasonable accommodation. You should ask your employer if a face shield would be acceptable. You could also try a different type of mask. However, the employer does not need to negotiate with your nor accommodate you unless this is deemed a true disability.

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