Businesses can face fines for mask violations by customers, staff after Illinois legislators approve rule

SPRINGFIELD —  Governor JB Pritzker’s proposed rule requiring businesses and schools to enforce the state’s mask mandate or face fines and other penalties went into effect Tuesday after it was approved by a legislative oversight committee.

On May 1, Pritzker ordered people age 2 and older to wear masks in public. Now, local health officials can penalize businesses if their staff or customers don’t comply with the mandate.

Penalties start with a written warning, and if they don’t comply, businesses can be ordered to remove customers from their property.

If businesses are still not enforcing the mask mandate, they can be subject to a Class A misdemeanor and fines ranging from $75 to $2,500.

Republicans in Illinois moved to suspend the Pritzker administration’s new rule, but the effort came up short after a secretive legislative committee known as JCAR approved them Tuesday. T

hese new rules are just for businesses, and cannot be enforced against individuals who refuse to wear face coverings.

Pritzker’s chief legal counsel Ann Spillane explained the rule to JCAR and said, “the challenge we have of course, is writing a rule that covers businesses and facilities of all shapes and sizes.”

“Businesses are not expected to achieve 100 percent compliance here,” Spillane said. “Businesses are asked to take reasonable efforts – signage, requiring that people wear masks.”

Republicans wanted the governor to call a special session so that the full legislature to pass a law to deal with COVID-19 safety.

“Honestly, having talked with so many Illinoisans who refuse to wear a mask, passing this administrative rule is not going to make people more likely to wear masks,” State Sen. Paul Schimpf said.

During a special legislative session in late May, the Pritzker administration filed an emergency rule that would have punished businesses that did not follow the guidelines of his reopening plan, but Pritzker withdrew the rule with JCAR poised to reject it.

It will be up to local health departments to enforce the mask mandate.