A reasonable ADA accommodation in Acton? One Citizen says “No.”

By: Morgan Coffron

              The state of Maine has been under one of the strictest mask mandates in the country for two months, now. But how is this affecting those who are physically and medically unable to wear a mask?

              In the town of Acton, one lone citizen is fighting for his right to use a service that his tax dollars pay for, the town transfer station. His fight began before the December 11th mandate.

              Beginning December 7, 2020, before the removal of medical exemptions, a string of emails back and forth between a town resident named Jeff and the Town Administrator, Jennifer Roux, began. Her first email to him explains that the town has made accommodations for anyone unable to wear a mask on Wednesdays between 4-4:30 PM, outside the normal business hours of the station. If he is “just unwilling to wear a mask, [he] will not be allowed to use the Transfer Station at all,” and he must indicate that he has a medical exemption.

              Jeff acknowledged that he has a disability, and continued to push back over the next few weeks, including with an incident on December 12, where he was confronted by the employees about his lack of mask. An employee approached him and violated the required 6 foot social-distancing. By December 28th, he was contacted by the deputy assigned to Acton to inform him that there was a lawful order to not return to the transfer station outside the accommodation time frame

              This “accommodating” time frame is in the middle of the week, at a time when most are working or have commitments that they cannot put aside to rid themselves of their trash. In the emails between Jeff and Jennifer Roux, he states multiple times that this time frame is very difficult to reach, and has tried to meet it. “Reasonable accommodations would be your staff unload my trash from my truck or they allow me to dump my own trash while other people wait,” says Jeff.

              According to the Maine Human Rights Act website about COVID-19, “once a person requests a reasonable accommodation, a covered entity must consider the request. Whenever possible, the covered entity should engage in an interactive dialogue with the requester about the reasonable accommodation request, though how and where this dialogue occurs may be different depending on the circumstances.”

              While the Acton transfer station has attempted to make an initial “reasonable accommodation” for Jeff, they have not waivered on changing it. Jeff did not waiver, either. He continued to practice his right to use the transfer station, and finally, on January 30, 2021, a criminal trespass summons was served, and a warning that every future visit to the station would result in another one.

              Up until the December 11, 2020 executive order by Governor Mills, medical exemptions for masks were permitted for all indoor and outdoor public spaces. This order specifically states that no there are no medical exemptions for indoor public spaces. Nothing is mentioned about outdoor spaces. And as anyone would guess, a transfer station happens to be outdoors.

              The question has to be asked: Has the town of Acton taken this executive order too far, and therefore is illegally discriminating against its citizens? What other towns are taking these steps that of which no one is aware? Would this have gone unnoticed if it were not for one man in a small town in Maine standing up for himself?

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13 thoughts on “A reasonable ADA accommodation in Acton? One Citizen says “No.””

  1. Maine is one of the only States that doesn’t allow for ‘medical exemptions’. Not to mention that this all occurred outside. I have met the gentleman that this article is speaking about, and he does have problems breathing. Even the damn CDC website says that those with breathing difficulties should not wear a mask.

    Their ONLY accommodations are a tiny 30 min window on Wednesdays. That’s absolutely absurd and does not comply with ADA standards.

  2. This has become completely insane what is happening to people everywhere. What ever happened to science? What has happened to peoples critical thinking? What has happened to our Country?

    There has never been an isolated virus…EVER, there is no proof that the mask has any benefit what so ever. There is eveidence that the mask’s can actually cause harm. The fake sickness they’re claiming has a 99+% survival rate and they want to vaccinate??? C’mon Mainer’s…….. IS THIS WHAT YOU STAND FOR??

    The science does not lie!

    1. The SARS-COV-2 virus which developed in 2019 and has spread worldwide is NOT a “fake sickness”. The lack of information that is exhibited in your comment is a prime example of the LACK of critical thinking. Clearly, the information you are receiving is highly suspect and must be devoid of facts. A mask is one way to HELP in stopping the transmission of the virus on moisture particles exhaled on a person’s breath. That you do not know that must mean you are not accessing factual information from credible news sources. The death rate from this virus is much higher the older a person is. Eschewing facts from epidemiologists and immunologists in lieu of your uneducated opinion is extremely short-sighted.

      1. Just goes to show you can have a great vocabulary and still be clueless.

        Masks the general public are wearing do not provide a path to making a significant contribution to preventing covid. You can read this on the box of masks.

        As an RT, I could go into further detail about this, but my guess is that your mide is already made up.

  3. This is out of control and Mills should be ashamed. Why after 1 year did she feel the need to become more strict when we have low “case numbers ” ? This gentleman has been given 30 mins once a week? He pays taxes ! He has rights! It probably takes him at least 15 – 20 mins just to get there! I know Acton and this doesn’t sound like reasonable accommodations to me! Sounds more like discrimination!!

  4. What if the resident was belligerent towards dump employees as well as the general public? What if he threatened violence to employees? What if he violated the six foot distance buffer of other people just to get people to react? Would you all feel the same? What if he took up this fight just to be confrontational? Remember sometimes people spin their side to sway public opinion

    1. I’ve seen videos of the interactions and I can understand the frustration of someone who is disabled being treated differently than others. I’ve also seen a video of someone else being offered an accommodation not offered to Jeff. I’ve read the town manager’s emails to the citizen and, in my opinion, they are incredibly unprofessional. Based on the video evidence and emails, it seems that the town has gone out of it’s way to be difficult and punitive over this issue.

      1. What happened to being a good samaritan! Someone must be able to help this gentlemen and bring his trash to the transfer station! If he is comprise with a health issue we should be there to help in any way possible. Neighbors helping neighbors. Where is the kindness in humanity!

    2. What if the Town of Acton and Kim Roux treated him with respect from the beginning instead of being defensive and petty? I bet none of that would have happened if the Town had been professional instead of punitive.

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