SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A Santa Fe auto parts store caught defying the state’s mask mandate could have to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines. The New Mexico Environment Department said the O’Reilly Auto Parts manager admitted to an inspector about knowing the rule and ignoring it.
“These particular violations were very disturbing and so we want to make sure that they’re held accountable for that,” Environment Department Public Information Officer Maddy Hayden explained.
The citation states that around July 4, an inspector saw three team members, a store manager, and an assistant manager all near each other in the store off Airport Road and not wearing masks. It’s O’Reilly’s corporate policy for employees to wear face coverings to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but the citation states management at this location did not require them.
The store was also slapped with another citation for not posting signs telling customers to wear masks which is a requirement for New Mexico retailers. Combined, the violations come with a hefty fine of more than $79,000.
“[The first violation is] considered a “willful and serious violation” and those types of violations are going to rack up a larger civil penalty,” Hayden said. “We certainly hope this has a deterring effect on other businesses that are behaving this way. I will say that we don’t see this kind of willful defiance. Employers want their employees to be safe in the vast majority of cases.”
A follow-up inspection showed that the store is now in compliance. The Environment Department said the business was just cited Tuesday after those corrections were made because it took time to process the paperwork.
O’Reilly Auto Parts has a few weeks to contest the citation and penalty. They declined to comment on this case.
No COVID-19 cases have been linked to this auto parts store. The department was tipped off to the violations at this business by a few complaints sent to the state’s COVID-complaint hotline.