A medical exemption doesn't allow people to "simply do what they please."
Store policies that make it a requirement for shoppers to wear a mask do not violate human rights, a tribunal has said.
In two new decisions, B.C.'s Human Rights Tribunal dismissed complaints against Lululemon in Vancouver and Creatures Pet Store in Victoria. Both cases involved stores that had introduced their own mask policy before the provincial mask mandate came into effect.
In the first case, Yvonne Coelho, who filed the complaint, entered a Lululemon store in Vancouver in November 2020 without wearing a face mask. When asked to wear a face covering by the assistant manager, Coelho refused, saying she had a medical "exemption" while also filming the conversation. Staff at the store told her she couldn't shop there without a mask and offered her the option to shop online.
B.C. Human Rights Tribunal chair Emily Ohler said that while there may be medical exemptions preventing a person from wearing a mask, it doesn't allow them to "simply do what they please" in a store that requires shoppers to wear a face covering.
"The fact that Ms. Coelho said that she could not wear a mask did not give her an 'exemption' from the mask policy that allowed her to simply disregard it and enjoy unfettered, maskless physical access to Lululemon's stores, which is what she appeared to assert in the video," Ohler wrote.
In a second complaint, Karleigh-Laurel Ratchford claims she was discriminated against "on the basis of disability" after staff at the Creatures Pet Store in Victoria denied her entry without a mask.
Ratchford visited the store in August 2020 and was offered a $5 face shield as an alternative to a mask and also told she could use curbside pickup.
She refused both options and, according to staff, then raised her voice, telling employees that the store's mask policy was breaking the law.
Ohler also dismissed this case, saying the store had "discharged its duty to accommodate" Ratchford.
In both decisions, the tribunal says that mask policies are not violating human rights as long as they are there to protect staff and fellow shoppers and that other alternatives such as delivery or curbside pickup are available.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.