Kelowna support worker speaks out after client denied haircut because he can't wear a mask | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna support worker speaks out after client denied haircut because he can't wear a mask

FILE. A woman gets her hair cut in this file photo.
Image Credit: PIXABAY
November 29, 2020 - 8:33 AM

After his disabled client was refused a haircut at a Kelowna hair salon for not wearing a mask, a community support worker is hoping to open a conversation on how to keep everyone safe during the pandemic.

Ross St. George said he went to Great Clips in Kelowna, Nov. 27, and asked if his client could come in for a haircut. His client’s disability prevents him from wearing a mask.

“He was outright refused service without any accommodations being provided,” he said. “This is a bigger conversation about inclusivity. We need to be mindful that some individuals are unable to wear a mask.”

His client was able to get a haircut elsewhere with COVID-19 protocols in place and where he felt comfortable, he said.

St. George said he spoke with the corporate vice president of Great Clips who apologized and said the franchisee’s actions were not congruent with the company’s policies.

“It’s not about the refusal of service. It’s about how it was done and what that has that revealed about the franchisee,” he said, adding that during a phone conversation with the owner there was no sympathy regarding the decision.

“There are many businesses operating with individuals who are unable to wear a mask. Schools are functioning, pools are operating… and to me, that demonstrates that some businesses know how to operate and (be inclusive).”

St. George said the goal by speaking out is "to ensure that we’re having these conversations about how to live in the pandemic while ensuring everyone in society still has access to the services they need, it’s about a bigger conversation.”

Paul Baumback, the franchisee owner of Kelowna Great Clips, said the person was refused service because the hairstylists didn’t feel comfortable performing cuts on clients without masks.

“Unfortunately we’re in a society and world where people are scared and you can’t force staff to do haircuts that they don’t feel comfortable doing, and we’re trying to work our policies for this so we can provide services for individuals if they’re unable to wear masks,” he said.

The salon will have a managers’ meeting Nov. 29 to resolve some of the issues, but he noted that everything is changing from one day to the next, and “people are just scared, and we are saying to our staff, if you don’t feel comfortable, you just can’t do it.”

Masks have been required for clients and employees from May until now.

“We’re trying to figure out how to work with this because we have (anti-maskers) that will say ‘oh, I have a disability’ when they don’t and you have people who are legitimate and how do you distinguish between them and how to resolve that right?”

“We’re doing the best we can, but again you’re dealing with people and a lot of unknown factors.”

—This story's photo was updated Nov. 29, 9:30 a.m., an hour after publishing, exchanging one of the arms of a Kelowna stylist from years earlier for another, unknown stylist. Both photos are file illustrations of a haircut and are not specifically about anyone involved in this story. 


To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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