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Human rights complaint over B.C. store's face mask policy dismissed

B.C.'s Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint from a purportedly asthmatic woman who alleged a pet store discriminated against her in refusing her store entry without a face mask.
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A purportedly asthmatic woman alleged that a Victoria pet store's face mask policy was against her human rights.

A B.C. woman's human rights complaint that she was denied entry to a pet food store because she can't wear a face mask has been dismissed.

In a decision posted Wednesday, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found that Creature Pet Store in Victoria had not discriminated against Karleigh-Laura Ratchford.

The complaint stems from a trip to buy dog training treats last year. Ratchford was trying to enter the store maskless when she was stopped by an employee and asked to put one on. Staff also gave her the option of shopping outside. When they offered to get the treats for her, Ratchford refused saying her dog has poultry allergies and the staffer might not be “versed enough to know if an ingredient is chicken.”

She was eventually asked to leave.

The store sought to have the complaint dismissed, noting that their COVID-19 safety policy submitted to WorkSafeBC states: “Customers who cannot wear a mask, or a face shield will have to use alternate methods to obtain their supplies from us, such as curbside delivery or home delivery."

Following the incident, Ratchford emailed the store owner.

“She wrote, among other things, that she would file a human rights claim if the mask policy were not changed, and that the law and the Tribunal are ‘in her favour’ ‘as a disabled person,'” tribunal chair Emily Ohler said in the Nov. 17 decision.

The store owner checked with staff to discover Ratchford had been offered a full-face shield. She then email back detailing the options that had been offered.

“I’ll explain this slowly,” Ratchford wrote in reply. “If I wear a mask, I will be short of breath within 30 seconds, dizzy within a minute, and I will pass out and smash my head on your damn floor where you'll then be sued tens of thousands of dollars for forcing me to jeopardize my health. You would automatically be at fault for forcing someone with pulmonary issues to wear masks that are NOT effective whatsoever against a mystery cough that cannot stay on surfaces isn’t airborne and doesn't survive sunlight, so you go ahead and live in your irrational psychotic fears fuelled by media bullshit.”

Ohler said it was fairly certain the company would establish it had attempted to accommodate Ratchford.

As for an employee not knowing if chicken were in a dog treat, Ohler said, “there is nothing to suggest that Ms. Ratchford would not have had the opportunity to read the ingredients at the door had she availed herself of the option of having products brought to her.”

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

Twitter.com/jhainswo