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Businesses Face Criminal Penalties Yet Gain Protection Under Illinois Mask Rules

Businesses Face Criminal Penalties Yet Gain Protection Under Illinois Mask Rules

On August 11, 2020, Illinois Governor. J.B. Pritzker was successful in a second attempt to criminalize business owners who fail to enforce his mask rules. Under Illinois' new mask rule, local police and prosecutors may impose criminal fines up to $2,500 to enforce his emergency mask order.

A prior blog addressed employer liability for failing to enforce the mask rules when required under the Emergency Covid-19 orders. Below addresses the new law as it applies to business – it is both a sword and shield for business owners.

Penalties for Violating Covid-19 Mask Rules.

Illinois' mask enforcement is directed at businesses that allow the violation of the mask rules – not the individuals refusing to wear the mask. Under this rule, business owners can be fined if their customers and employees fail to wear masks after repeated warnings. These rules do not apply to individuals. Penalties for violating will not exceed a misdemeanor and a $75-$2,500 fine.

According to a press release from the Governor's Office dated August 7, 2020:

“As I’ve visited with and listened to mayors and health departments all across our state, it’s clear there is still an even greater need to get people to wear masks – especially to protect frontline workers, whether they’re at the front of a store asking you to put on your mask or whether they’re responding to 911 calls to save those in distress,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “These rules, which provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued, are a commonsense way to enforce public health guidelines. Illinois has made substantial progress in our fight against COVID-19 because the vast majority of communities and business owners have done the right thing. These rules will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won’t take our state backward.”

The rules provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued:

  • First, businesses will be given a warning in the form of written notice and encouraged to voluntarily comply with public health guidance.
  • Second, businesses that do not voluntarily comply will be given an order to have some or all of their patrons leave the premises as needed to comply with public health guidance and reduce risks.
  • Third, if the business continues to refuse to comply, the business can receive a class A misdemeanor and be subject to a fine ranging from $75-$2,500.

Thus, business owners have the affirmative obligation to make sure that all customers and employees wear a mask when required by the Covid-19 Orders.

Protection for Enforcing Covid-19 Mask Rules.

Governor Pritzker also signed SB 471 to expand workplace protections.

To directly protect workers in retail, SB 471 adds a penalty for assaulting or battering a retail worker who is conveying public health guidance, such as requiring patrons to wear face-coverings or promoting social distancing.

“This provision sends the message that it’s vitally important for workers to be both respected and protected while serving on the front lines.”

See Press Release, Pritzker, August 7, 2020.

Businesses are able to point to these penalties and protection in setting their requirements for all customers and employees entering the business premises.

If you have any questions, please contact Kristin Tauras at ktauras@mckenna-law.com. Kristin devotes a significant portion of her practice to employment litigation.

Categories Business Law Business Services COVID19 Employment Law General Litigation Insurance Coverage

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