Businesses Must Enforce Mask Requirements Under New State Rules

Businesses Must Enforce Mask Requirements Under New State Rules

Reacting to an uptick in COVID-19 infections in Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced in August that business owners could be subject to fines of up to $2500 for failure to require face coverings by patrons. Under the rules, fines would only be imposed after preliminary steps, including written warnings, and enforcement of the rules is left to local authorities.  The Governor said that the goal is to address “rogue” businesses that defy public health guidelines.

Under the rule, businesses must post signs spelling out mask-wearing requirements, offer customers face coverings and ask them to leave if they refuse to do so.  The requirement applies to indoor spaces like stores and to outdoor areas, though patrons at restaurants can remove masks when eating or drinking.  The Governor opted to pursue the administrative rule after the General Assembly failed to pass legislation giving teeth to the state’s mask requirement.  As yet, there are no penalties applied to individuals who choose not to comply with the state’s COVID-prevention guidelines.  It is, however, a felony to assault an employee of a business who is seeking to enforce a mask requirement.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association strongly opposed the measure for placing an unfair burden on business owners.  “While the administration preaches the importance of individuals wearing face coverings, they are clearly not interested in taking responsibility for their own orders. Instead, they are exporting their enforcement responsibilities to others and playing politics with the pandemic,” said IRMA CEO Rob Carr in a press release.

The requirements for mask-wearing in restaurants and bars were made more stringent as of August 26.  Throughout the state, customers are now expected to wear face coverings whenever they are interacting with the establishment’s employees, including while placing orders, while food and beverages are being served at a table, or when picking up carryout orders.  Governor Pritzker stated that the new rule, developed in partnership with the Illinois Restaurant Association, is “aimed at protecting our workers and slowing the spread.”  New signage promoting the requirement is available on the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website.