BOSTON (CBS) – The owner of a Lynn tax preparation company is facing more than $135,000 in fines after she is accused of prohibiting employees and customers from wearing masks and refusing to implement COVID protocols.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Ariana Murrell-Rosario for "willfully failing to develop and implement measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus." Murrell-Rosario is the owner of Liberty Tax Service.
"I believe that the masks are actually the potential source of the spreading," Murrell-Rosario told WBZ-TV
She told OSHA investigators she believed making her employees wear masks for long shifts would actually be harmful to their health. She feared it could cause illness.
"Anaphylactic reactions, sinus infections, staph bacteria eating away at their nose and they're getting sores, collapsed lung," she said.
OSHA began an inspection on March 17 after a referral from the Division of Labor Standards.
An inspection found that the company stopped employees and customers from wearing masks, despite a mandate in the state. Employees were also required to work within six feet of each and customers other for multiple hours while not wearing masks.
"There could be HIV virus on those masks. Herpes virus, hepatitis viruses," she said.
According to OSHA, Liberty Tax also had inadequate ventilation and failed to put other controls in place such as physical barriers, employee screenings and enhanced cleaning.
Murrell-Rosario said at first the company was giving out disposable masks to customers who wanted one. She said that after a month, some started developing allergic reactions.
Murrell-Rosario then began having customers remove their masks and put them in a sealed bag when they entered. She said some customers were upset by the request, which prompted complaints to OSHA.
The company has 15 days to appeal its fines, which total $136,532
"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. "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."
The CDC has repeatedly stressed that people can have COVID without showing symptoms, and still spread it to others. Murell-Rosario insists her office understands how to "neutralize the virus."
"We work extensively with the public," she said. "We cannot afford to have people out sick."
Rosario said she does not believe OSHA has a case against her.
"I would like to see OSHA, which is a federal agency charged with protecting the health and safety of employees, not pander to state pressure," she said.
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