Illinois Target worker threatened to call police on unmasked special needs woman, dad says

"If they’re going to enforce the law, they need to read it, they need to be trained," the dad said of store employees.

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

The father of a woman with special needs is outraged after an employee at an Illinois Target threatened to call police because his daughter wasn't wearing her mask.

Bill Pratt was with 22-year-old Emma Pratt — who has cerebral palsy, autism, sensory integration disorder and is in a wheelchair — at a Target in Orland Park on Saturday when she asked him if she could take off her mask.

"She goes, 'Can I take this off? Can I pull this down?' I said 'yeah go ahead,'" Pratt said. Sensory integration disorder causes people to have abnormal responses to sensory information, like the feeling of fabric on one's face. "Sometimes things are too much," Pratt said.

The employee approached Pratt and told him she had to put her mask back on. Pratt responded that she had sensory issues, and was likely medically exempt from having to wear a mask.

Gov. JB Pritzker's order, which went into effect on May 1, requires people over the age of 2 to wear masks or a cloth face-covering while in public indoor spaces. But the ruling stipulates that those who are unable to "medically tolerate a face-covering" are exempt.

The employee, though, asked for documentation to prove that Emma Pratt had a medical excuse, Pratt told NBC Chicago. Then, the employee threatened to call police.

Pratt left his purchases behind and left the store with his daughter, which he said was a shame because "she loves Target ... she just likes to walk around the store."

"You can’t do this to people with special needs," Pratt said. "If they’re going to enforce the law, they need to read it, they need to be trained."

Pratt said he called Target's corporate headquarters to file a complaint.

A statement from Target said the company wants "everyone to have a positive experience at Target and apologize for the experience this guest and his daughter had in our store."

"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," the statement said. "We have also reached out to the guest with an interest to connect directly about their experience."