A father is speaking out after an employee at a suburban Target store threatened to call police after the man’s daughter removed her mask at the retail location over the weekend.
Bill Pratt says that he brought his daughter Emma, who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and autism, to the Target store in suburban Orland Park on Saturday. The store is one of her favorite places to go.
“She loves Target,” he said. “She loves to walk around the store and buy videos there.”
Pratt says both he and his daughter were wearing masks, but it took some convincing to get his daughter to wear one.
“In order for me to get her to wear a mask, I had to design it like it was for a superhero,” he said. “I had to cut the nose out because it was really bothering her.”
A short time after Pratt and his daughter entered the store, she took her mask off, and they were soon confronted by an employee of the store.
“He goes ‘sir, you have to put it on her,’” Pratt said. “I said ‘I think she is exempt,’ and he said ‘do you have documentation to prove that? If not I’m going to call the police.’”
Pratt says he left his purchases inside the store and took his daughter outside.
“He said he would call the police, and I had to get her out of there at that point,” he said.
Illinois’ rule mandating that residents wear masks when out in public places where social distancing is not possible went into effect on May 1. The rule does have several exemptions, including for those individuals with medical conditions that make wearing a mask impractical or hazardous.
Pratt says that he called Target’s corporate headquarters to file a complaint about the way he and his daughter were treated.
“You cannot do this to people with special needs,” he said. “It is not a blanket thing. Everyone cannot wear a mask.”
Dr. Linda Marshall, an occupational therapist specializing in pediatrics, says that the state’s exemptions to the mask law are critically important, saying masks can be a trigger for some children and adults with sensory disorders.
“When they have a mask on, or anything on their face or head, it can trigger the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response,” she said.
Pratt says he would like to see workers in retail stores trained on how to implement the state’s mask order, and would like to see details about the mask policy posted in businesses across the state.
“If they are going to enforce the law, they need to read it and be trained,” he said. “Some people need to tell them about people with underlying medical conditions.”
Target issued a statement apologizing for the incident, saying that they will work to educate their employees on the parameters of the state order.
“We want everyone to have a positive experience at Target and apologize for the experience this guest and his daughter had in our store,” the company said. “We appreciate the role our frontline team members are playing in this quickly evolving environment, and have taken this opportunity to reinforce the specific details of the Executive Order and local guidance, including exceptions for anyone who has a disability that prevents wearing a mask.”