On Tuesday, it was announced by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) that the Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham Administration had “settled” a dispute with an O’Reilly Auto Parts store on Airport Road in Santa Fe for allegedly not forcing employees to wear masks or display government-mandated COVID-19 signage.
According to the release, in July, the store was cited after they were snitched-out by “several citizen complaints.” The Department “observed that management did not require employees to wear face coverings– a violation of state law, public health orders and COVIDSafe Practices.” NMED claimed that the alleged non-compliance by the store exposed “staff and customers to the imminent danger of COVID-19.”
“The store was also cited for failing to post signage requiring customers to wear face coverings while inside the store, further endangering employees. During subsequent inspections, NMED observed store management corrected the violations,” wrote the NMED release.
“Failure by employers to protect staff from COVID-19– a known workplace hazard – is unacceptable,” said Lujan Grisham’s NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “Employers must take their worker protection responsibility seriously or they will face robust enforcement action by the State of New Mexico.”
O’Reilly Auto Parts will pay $79,200 in penalties, says the release. The penalties will go to the state general fund, meaning the Governor and the Legislature will have access to these funds at the upcoming Legislative Session in January. Gov. Lujan Grisham’s giant $7.6 budget passed the last Legislature in 2020, which included the creation of a new state department, among other pork-filled measures.
O’Reilly being a national franchise most likely can afford to expend nearly $80,000 in fines, however, a mom and pop shop would likely be forced to close for good if faced with such steep demands.