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Federal Court Backs Retailer’s Mask Mandate

Giant Eagle, Inc. requires customers to wear masks while shopping in its grocery stores. The company implemented the mandate following the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s order requiring everyone to wear face coverings in all public places. Giant Eagle offered customers unable to wear masks the option of wearing full-face shields or other alternatives, including curbside service, home delivery, and personal shoppers.

Josiah Kostek, one of 69 individuals suing Giant Eagle, alleged that the face cover mandate violates the public accommodation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kostek suffers from anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. He argues these disorders prevent him from wearing a mask. He sought a preliminary injunction to allow him to enter the store without a face covering. A federal district court denied his injunction. According to the court, Kostek failed to demonstrate why he could not wear a face covering. The district court held that Giant Eagle’s mandate was reasonable in light of the state’s face covering requirement. Kostek was arrested following his two attempts to shop without a mask. Kostek’s social media posts wherein he proclaimed his good health and “right to refuse” to wear a mask allowed the court to conclude that he failed to demonstrate his need for an exception.

Because Kostek failed to prove he needed accommodation, the federal court did not reach Giant Eagle’s defenses related to the legitimate safety concerns behind the policy or whether Kostek’s refusal threatened the safety of employees and other customers. The court noted that they were “well-taken.”