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Does the thought of ill restaurant workers make you sick?


The food industry is a difficult place to work. It is very competitive and at the upper end, such as expensive Manhattan restaurants, subject to the fickle tastes of dinners. While owners and famous chefs may struggle to win their place at the top, for many of the workers, the struggles are far more mundane.

Like going to work sick. A recent survey found that half of food industry workers go to work when they are sick. And they do it for very simple economic reasons. They typically have no paid sick time. The business model presumes workers won't get sick, otherwise, surely they would offer sick time as a benefit. 


And there is the low-pay issue. They often make minimum wage, or less for tipped workers, and frequently have to work more than one job to earn enough to buy their own food and pay rent. Missing a day of work can be a substantial hit to their minimal gross pay, leaving them unable to pay an important bill or skipping a few meals.

While their status is lowly, they are necessary. This brings about a perverse, inverse relationship. In spite of this necessity, to save even more money, employers often schedule so thinly that the absence of a single employee can disrupt the functioning of the restaurant.

The need to have every worker show up for every scheduled shift means ill workers can suffer retaliation from their employer when they take an unpaid sick day.

The sensible thing to do would be to mandate all employees receive paid sick time. After all, how willing would you be to eat at a restaurant if you know the person preparing your food was ill?

It may be something to keep in mind the next time you go out to eat because that could be the case. Bon appétit.

Source: npr.org, "Survey: Half Of Food Workers Go To Work Sick Because They Have To," Lynne Shallcross, October 19, 2015

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