PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – People who identify as disabled say they were kicked to the curb, forced to leave and publicly embarrassed because of Giant Eagle’s mask policy.
KDKA’s Meghan Schiller spoke exclusively with the local attorney who is vetting allegations against Giant Eagle and filing the lawsuits.
The attorney filed about 30 complaints so far, and the stack on his desk keeps growing.
He believes Giant Eagle made a blanket rule, but then asked some people to do something totally different because of their disability. He believes that’s discriminatory.
Attorney Tom Anderson can barely keep up.
“When I came in this morning and checked my voicemail here at work, I filled an entire sheet of people who called,” he says.
Those callers are people who identify as disabled and say they walked into Giant Eagle without a mask on, only to be shown the door.
He says these people have asthma, COPD, emphysema, PTSD or anxiety.
Anderson filed complaints for 30 people so far to two places: in federal court and with the state’s Human Relations Act.
“The judge actually ordered I have to put together a consolidated compliant with all of them so it puts them in one,” he says.
His clients live all over, but allegedly share one common experience. The lawsuits claim Giant Eagle turned them away because they didn’t put on a face mask, even though they allegedly told store employees they had a medical condition.
“These folks are going into the store and saying ‘wait a minute, I have the order from the state health secretary that says there’s an exception and you’re not even supposed to ask me what the medical condition is.'”
The health department issued that order, effective April 19. It says: “Individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (including children under the age of 2 years per CDC guidance) may enter the premises and are not required to provide documentation of such medical condition.”
Giant Eagle tells KDKA it put numerous options in place.
“This includes offering to have one of our team members shop for them, suggesting use of our Giant Eagle curbside pickup and delivery service and offering courtesy masks to those able to shop while wearing one,” says Giant Eagle.
Anderson said those options segregate the disabled and non-disabled customers, and for that reason he believes the policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A Giant Eagle spokesman reiterated this afternoon that the company doesn’t think the lawsuits have “any merit.”
But Anderson disagrees. He’s asking the judge for an injunction in federal court, meaning if the judge rules in his favor, Giant Eagle would have to change its mask policy.