Wine & Spirits

A worker at the Fine Wine & Good Spirits store 558 Centerville Road in East Hempfield Township brings an order for curbside pickup Tuesday, April 21, 2020. After talking to customers when they arrive, the worker, who was wearing a mask and gloves, placed orders on the sidewalk for the customer to get. Orders must be placed by phone and then can be picked up outside the store.

The state Department of Health has launched what critics are calling a “snitch portal” that allows workers to complain online about employers who fail to provide masks, practice social distancing or clean their workplaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Health officials say the effort is designed to protect workers and make sure businesses follow state guidelines that require customers wear masks.

“While it is not our intent to punish businesses, enforcement agencies are to begin enforcing the order with warnings for non-compliant businesses, before moving to more significant enforcement if warranted,” said Nate Wardle, an agency spokesman.

The state launched the website on Thursday on has received more than 1,200 complaints since then, Wardle said.

Some lawmakers are criticizing the move, though.

Republican state Sen. Scott Martin of Martic Township called it a “gotcha” tool that allows “citizens to tattle-tale” on each other. “I think it was a big mistake to create this kind of page,” Martin said.

He said the state should be focused instead on making sure the strained unemployment compensation fund doesn’t collapse, addressing the number of illnesses and deaths in Pennsylvania nursing homes and being more transparency about which businesses have gotten waivers to operate.

“This is not how America operates,” said Republican Rep. Andrew Lewis of Dauphin County. “This is ludicrous.”

He described the website as a “snitch portal.”

Republican Rep. Aaron Bernstine of Lawrence County said the state’s focus should be on getting people back to work.

“I’m disappointed,” he said. “I’m 35 years old and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Wardle said the health department will not release the names of complainants or the allegations they’ve made against businesses or employers.

“There is a group of individuals from across various agencies who are reviewing complaints to determine what steps can be taken,” Wardle said. “While the form lives on the department website, the department is not the only agency monitoring these.”

He said he didn’t have a full list but said likely participants include the Department of Community and Economic Development and the Department of Labor and Industry.

Asked about those calling it a “snitch page,” Wardle said, “We want to ensure people have the ability to voice their concerns and complaints, should they feel the need to do so.”