(WSVN) - A South Florida woman was so outraged when she was asked to wear a mask, she asked people to write reviews that would damage the business. Is that legal? Plus, do you have to be near a co-worker who refuses to get vaccinated? For the answers, let’s bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When COVID hit, many businesses were ruined, but bike shops kept rolling along.

Alessandra Nicolosi: “It was crazy. We were out of stock for a while.”

Alessandra and her husband Sam never closed during the pandemic, but they were careful.

Alessandra Nicolosi: “Yes, we have a sign right in the front door as you walk in that says that we require masks.”

The masks were to protect their customers and, most importantly, to make sure they didn’t get COVID and infect their son.

Alessandra Nicolosi: “He has asthma, he has heart problems, he has one kidney, so I can’t afford to bring it home.”

Now as the pandemic has eased, some stores are making masks optional for vaccinated customers.

But for her son’s sake, the bike shop still requires everyone to wear them.

Then one customer said, “Everyone but her.”

Alessandra Nicolosi: “That she didn’t have to, that this is not China, this is not Berlin, that she has rights. She went off on a whole rant.”

The woman wanted to make sure her friends saw her rant, recording as she verbally attacked Alessandra and her husband.

Woman: “Both of you are obese, and you’re trying to talk about health?!”

Alessandra Nicolosi: “Telling him that he was obese, that he’s this, that he should worry about his health and not hers, which was nothing that we were saying. We just told her to please put on a mask.”

Sam stayed calm and said he told the woman that they could take care of her bike outside. Instead, she left.

But a day later, the video she recorded was posted to show how great she had been at belittling people.

Alessandra Nicolosi: “She started to attack us on Instagram and having people email us, and having all her followers started going online calling us Nazis, calling us pathetic.”

The woman wrote to her followers, “Leave them bad reviews and one star for discriminating against your healthy friend.”

And the campaign began to destroy the bike business Alessandra and Sam have worked 25 years to build.

Alessandra Nicolosi: “They started putting fake Google reviews and stuff. That’s going to make us lose some business. It felt bad.”

Alessandra asked a customer to wear a mask to stop the spread of COVID. Look what the request got her.

Alessandra Nicolosi: “Do businesses have legal rights to make our own requirements in our store that customers have to follow?”

Your turn, Mr. Finkelstein.

Howard Finkelstein: “Yes. A business can still require customers to wear a mask, even if the person says they have been vaccinated, because the business owner has that right.”

And that leads to a question every business owner might have…

Alessandra Nicolosi: “And does a customer have the right to then go bashing us and harassing us online?”

Howard Finkelstein: “You cannnot harass, you cannot lie, but you can say anything you want as long as it’s true. That means you can ask people to boycott the business, but if it’s based on a lie, it’s libel, and the business owner can sue and collect a lot of money.”

Another COVID question. A lot of people are getting vaccinated, but some co-workers are not. Can you be forced to work closely with someone who refuses to get vaccinated?

Howard Finkelstein: “The CDC guidelines just issued are not clear. They appear to say a vaccinated worker is safe with an unvaccinated worker, but they also say it’s not 100% safe, leaving employers and employees confused about what to do.”

We spoke to the woman who recorded the video, who said her name was Maji. She told me, “You better believe I want to hurt their business. Masks are nonsense and illegal.”

I asked to interview her for our story. She said, “I don’t like fake news.”

Knowing someone would want to destroy their business over a mask amazes Alessandra.

Alessandra Nicolosi: “It’s amazing in this pandemic that people, instead of being more calm, they’ve come out of the woodwork being hysterical and crazy and attacking people.”

The poster said we were fake news. Howard, I thought we were real. Oh, well.

Well, one group wants to hurt JB Bikes. If you want to help and need a bike or need one repaired, JB Bikes on Miami Beach is ready for you. Help ’em out.

And if you need legal help, any kind of help, remember, we are really here for you.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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