Your Waiter May Be Serving You the Flu With Those Fries

Remember When 10

restaurantSo I guess you heard? The flu is going around. It's waiting to find you behind every corner, with every little microscopic drop from every little sneeze and cough. And it may even be heading your way on a tray from your waiter.

Think about it: Most restaurant workers do not get paid sick leave. Any day they're home sick, they're missing out on a paycheck. So ... what are you supposed to do?!? Take some medicine and show up for work, that's what.

Suddenly that Cobb salad is looking awfully sinister.

A few cities around the country are considering restaurant paid sick leave laws that would require restaurants to give their workers a few paid sick days. That way, a waitress doesn't feel obligated to drag her phlegmy, fevered self into work and spend the day touching your plates and glasses and sneezing into the kitchen.

It sounds like a nice thing to do for the workers. But it's also a smart public health move. I mean, sure, an employer can tell you to stay home if you're sick. But can anyone really afford to do that and still make the rent?

I know a lot of restaurant owners hate the idea of paid sick leave because, dayum, profit margins are already so slim! But cities with paid sick leave laws usually limit the days to five a year (so you can't just call in sick all the time), and THEN workers end up using only a couple of those days anyway. So it doesn't sound like it's going to ruin anyone's business.

The alternatives are 1) we keep passing around germs, whee! 2) we stop eating out during flu season, boo! Neither alternative sounds like much fun to me, actually. But what the hell, it's too cold to go out to eat right now anyway.

Do you ever worry about cooks and waiters working sick?


Image via goodiesfirst/Flickr

chain restaurants, eating out, food safety, in the news, recipes


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Todd Vrancic

My wife works at a fast food place, no paid sick leave and policy states that if you call in sick, you need a doctor's note.  She's home with the flu.

nonmember avatar kellie

I work in a grocery deli and was told if I have to puke do it in the back, wash my hands and help the customer asap!

nonmember avatar SarahKayak

Not only was I sick but my children were also. I work for a major grocery store in California and was threatened to be fired if I called in sick. Luckily I found a better job and put in my notice. What a horrible situation

craft... craftycatVT

When I was a waitress, the waitstaff was constantly passing sickness around. People would come to work sick and every shift we'd all have to taste the specials before opening so we could describe the dishes to the customers better.

Wheep... Wheepingchree

I'm a waitress, but I would never go to work sick. I had bronchitis in the beginning of January, along with my daughter & I chose to stay home.  It definitely sucked being broke for a week, but when you over-exert yourself while sick, you generally just make yourself sicker for longer.  I will always choose to just take the hit for a few days, rather than contaminate others.

Todd Vrancic

My wife has been out for a week.  Thank the gods our state return came in.

nonmember avatar Stacee

As a bartender, what concerns me is not me passing something on to my guests, it's when people come in to eat when they're sick. How about if YOU have the flu, you stay home. I would never subject my guests to that. If you will call into your 9 to 5 so you don't get your coworkers sick, why are you going to come in and disregard my health? Stay home people!

nonmember avatar Casey

I'm a server and yes, we almost always go to work sick, but it's not just because we're worried about missing out on the money. Calling off at most restaurants (no matter how legitimate your reason is - if you just found out you have cancer, if you were in a car accident, etc) gets you in a LOT of trouble. It's sad it's this way, but most managers would RATHER you come to work sick than run a server short.

I'm all for sick leave. My customers look at me weirdly when I'm obviously sick and I know they don't want me serving their food, but what can I do?

nonmember avatar Briee

While I appreciate the advocacy for sick days for food service employees, I'm a little frustrated with this blog. How do you suppose most of us get sick? Couldn't have been the lady at table 12 who left a pile of used kleenex on the table. You make restaurant workers sound so sinister. Sure, we wouldn't get paid if we took a day off, but most of us would regardless if our employers weren't jerks about it. It's expected that you just take some dayquil, come in and wash your hands a lot. I'd love to be able to say to the lady at table 12, shame on you for coming into a restaurant like that. But I can't. So I get to pick up her used kleenex full of boogers and flu and scrub my hand til they're raw and then go grab a couple plates of food from the window and pray I'm not infecting table 18 or 56 or myself or my coworkers or my husband or my kids when I get home. Please, next time, write a blog on all the customers out there that need to stay home. Don't turn me into a villain because people want to eat out and management expects me to be super human and power through any sort of problems I may be having. Write a blog about that.

nonmember avatar Melanie

The bigger problem is that we are not able to take time off when we are ill unless we find people to cover our shifts. It's not work that we can 'make up' at a later date. Iron Hill Brewery has a policy that requires one to show up for work no matter what. If the management believes you are ill, they may send you home after an hour or two. By that time all of your coworkers have been exposed to your germs, and you've cut lemons, folded napkins, and handled silverware and glasses. Yes, your server can make you sick, but the management is to blame because they require sick people to work.

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