BELLEVUE, Wash. (KIRO/CNN) - Crate & Barrel wants to express its apologies to a 28-year-old customer with cerebral palsy, who was asked to leave a Washington store over its face mask policy.
Chris Hays, 28, was wearing a mask when he and his girlfriend went shopping Friday at Crate & Barrel in Bellevue, Washington, but because Hays has cerebral palsy, he could not put the mask over his nose.
“With cerebral palsy, I get out of breath quite easily. I had the mask over my mouth but not over my nose in order to take deeper breaths when I need to,” Hays said.
He says two clerks and the store manager all approached him and asked him to cover his nose. He kept explaining he was medically exempt.
“I explained to her that with my cerebral palsy, I need extra oxygen, and I’m medically exempt,” he said. “She said, ‘Well, I don’t see the oxygen tank, but obviously, I see the disability,’ which is in itself a little rude and insensitive.”
Hays says he was eventually told he would need to leave the store, if he didn’t cover his nose.
"It made me feel terrible and horrible about myself," he said. "That experience made me feel unwelcome and undeserving to be out in public."
Hays asked Crate & Barrel for an apology and wants to make sure businesses know about the exemptions. He is also asking people not to use the exemption when they don’t qualify or when they simply don’t want to wear a mask.
“This exemption is in there for people like me,” he said.
A spokesperson for Crate & Barrel acknowledged Hays should not have been asked to leave the store. In a statement, the company said they would speak with him and offer an apology.
“In alignment with CDC recommendations, we have trained all store associates that masks are required for all customers while shopping, with exceptions for small children and those with medical conditions. In this incident, while our store associate had the best of intentions, they did not properly follow this policy which exempts those with medical conditions,” read the statement in part. “We appreciate this matter being brought to our attention since as we continue to navigate this pandemic, we are committed to ongoing associate training on our safety policies to ensure a safe and comfortable shopping experience for all.”