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. (Read more coronavirus stories.)