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A class-action lawsuit has been filed in federal court against Giant Eagle over its masking policies last year, with close to 60 plaintiffs claiming they were discriminated against when they could not wear face masks due to medical conditions.

Some of the plaintiffs are from Washington and Fayette counties, and some of the stores where incidents occurred include locations in Finleyville and Uniontown.

The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Thomas B. Anderson, the attorney for the plaintiffs, filed suits against Giant Eagle last year on behalf of individuals who said the grocery chain ignored exceptions carved out within Gov. Tom Wolf’s masking orders allowing individuals with health conditions not to wear masks in public places. The suit also says that customers who were not wearing masks in Giant Eagle stores in Indiana, Ohio or West Virginia were not subject to similar treatment.

The suit claims the plaintiffs suffered embarrassment, humiliation, mental anguish, emotional distress and inconvenience when they were denied the right to shop in the stores. They are seeking compensatory damages and litigation expenses from Giant Eagle, which is based in O’Hara Township in Allegheny County.

Dick Roberts, a spokesman for Giant Eagle, said the company does not comment on active litigation.

Almost all the incidents in the suit occurred in the first half of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was initially taking hold. Canonsburg resident Alex Sakelos says in the suit that he and his wife were subject to harassment by the manager of the Giant Eagle outlet in Bridgeville on July 1, 2020, because he was not wearing a mask. Sakelos said he did not wear a mask because he has asthma.

According to the suit, at the Finleyville Giant Eagle on April 30, 2020, Vanderbilt resident Gregory Mandich said he was told to leave the store since he did not have a mask on. Mandich says he suffers from anxiety and claustrophobia. Paula Soost, a Uniontown resident, said she was stopped when trying to enter the Greensburg Giant Eagle on June 15, 2020, and a manager purchased her groceries for her while she waited outside. Soost said she is unable to wear a mask because of an anxiety disorder.

Almost a year ago, a federal judge denied a preliminary injunction that would have forced Giant Eagle to change its masking policy. Giant Eagle’s current policy allows customers to shop without a mask, but employees are required to wear them.

Staff Writer

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. He serves as editorial page editor, and has covered the arts and entertainment and worked as a municipal beat reporter.

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