Liberty Tax Service in Lynn faces $136K in fines, accused of prohibiting employees and customers from wearing masks, OSHA says

A Massachusetts business owner is facing more than $136,000 in penalties from the federal government over accusations she prohibited both her employees and customers from wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, authorities announced Tuesday.

Ariana Murrell-Rosario, who owns Liberty Tax Service in Lynn, is accused of not allowing people in her business to mask up, failing to ensure employees and customers practiced social distancing and refusing to implement other safeguards against COVID-19, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA said Murrell-Rosario failed to develop measures to prevent the spread of the virus in her tax preparation business. She’s facing $136,532 in penalties.

“This employer’s willful refusal to implement basic safeguards places her employees at an increased risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton in Boston. “Stopping the spread of this virus requires business’ support in implementing COVID-19 Prevention Programs, and ensuring that staff and customers wear face coverings and maintain physical distance from each other.”

Following a referral from the Division of Labor Standards of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, OSHA opened its inspection into Liberty Tax Service on March 17.

What federal authorities said they discovered was Murrell-Rosario and her business prohibited people from wearing face coverings in the workplace despite a statewide mask order that mandated the business to require employees and customers to wear masks.

She is also accused of requiring employees to work within 6 feet of each other and customers for multiple hours while not wearing face coverings, failed to provide adequate means of ventilation at the business and not implementing public safety measures such as physical barriers, pre-shift screening of workers, enhanced cleaning and other methods aimed at reducing transmission.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply with OSHA’s orders, request an informal conference with the agency’s area director or contest the findings before an independent commission.

According to WHDH, Murrell-Rosario said she prohibited mask-wearing in her business because she feels face coverings are dangerous.

“When they come to the door we ask them if they want to come in and file, they have to put their mask in a bag and seal it,” she told the news outlet. “There could be HIV virus on the mask, there could be herpes on the mask, there could be hepatitis on the mask. We don’t know what’s on those masks, we can’t take the risk.”