LAGUNA WOODS (CBSLA) — A self-proclaimed member of the “Freedom to Breathe Agency,” which the U.S. Department of Justice has warned is not a government agency, was seen telling a Laguna Woods grocery store employee she could face legal action for asking customers to wear face coverings.
The now-viral TikTok has been viewed more than 1.4 million times after the exchange last week between Mother’s Market store supervisor Liz Chavez and anti-mask advocate Lenka Koloma in an aisle of Mother’s Market.
Koloma was heard on the video telling Chavez, who said she was just following her store’s protocol for helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus, that she could be fined thousands of dollars or go to jail for enforcing mask mandates inside the store.
The woman also appeared to take a dig at Chavez’s pay saying, “You are probably paid $15 or $12 an hour but you are putting yourself in a major legal liability.”
Koloma is with the group known as the Freedom to Breathe Agency, or the FTBA.
In June, the Department of Justice issued a warning about fraudulent mask exemption cards issued by the group, which had referenced the DOJ and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Do not be fooled by the chicanery and misappropriation of the DOJ eagle,” Matthew G.T. Martin, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, said in a news release. “These cards do not carry the force of law. The ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency,’ or ‘FTBA,’ is not a government agency.”
A Mother’s Market executive praised Chavez’s response to the confrontation.
“I think Liz did a great job in this video. Our team member stood her ground and was very professional and polite and she did the very best she could,” said company COO Russell Friend.
Mother’s Market says anyone who chooses not to wear a mask inside their stores can request a personal shopper or utilize grocery delivery options.
Koloma chose not to wear a mask and left the store shortly after the confrontation.
The warning comes as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise across the United States. Some 60% of states have seen increases in coronavirus cases in the last week.
Scientific research supports wearing face coverings to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and have been recommended for most Americans by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.