One State Cracks Down on Shoppers Angry About Masks

It'll now be a felony if anyone threatens or assaults an Illinois employee about health guidelines
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2020 1:59 AM CDT
Updated Aug 11, 2020 5:05 AM CDT
Illinois Cracks Down on Shoppers Angry About Masks
People wear face masks as they shop in a department store in Montreal, Sunday, August 2, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic.   (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Assault or physically threaten a retail worker over something related to the coronavirus pandemic? In Illinois, that'll be a felony. The state last week signed a new measure into law, and now any assault or battery against a retail worker over public health guidance—including mask mandates or social distancing requirements—will be considered aggravated battery, which is typically a felony in the state and can lead to a prison sentence of two to five years, CNN reports. Simple battery, by contrast, is a misdemeanor, Business Insider reports.

As customers increasingly lash out at store employees over COVID-19 measures, this move "sends the message that it's vitally important for workers to be both respected and protected while serving on the front lines," the governor says in a press release. And since, in Illinois, making physical contact in an "insulting or provoking nature" can be considered battery, a shopper doesn't necessarily have to actually get violent in order for the measure to take effect. (More coronavirus stories.)

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