63% Of Restaurant Workers Admit To Serving While Sick

Waiter! There’s a phlegm in my soup! And it’s yours! 63% of restaurant workers in a new survey said they had cooked and served food while sick, putting consumers at risk, and also being just gross.

90% of them also said they don’t get insurance through their employers, and 87% said they didn’t get paid sick days.

The report, ommissioned by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a labor coalition for restaurant workers, contains stories like this one:

I could not call in sick because no work meant no money and I couldn’t afford it at that time. My kids were very young… Halfway through the day, the sneezing, coughing and runny nose got worse. I asked the manager, “I am really sick and need to go because I could make others sick…” She laughed and told me, “Try not to cough, then.”


Serving While Sick: Report Reveals Need for Paid Sick Days & Health Insurance in the Restaurant Industry [Restaurant Opportunities Centers United]
Download the full report (PDF)

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Edit Your Comment

  1. JulesNoctambule says:

    Work = money. Some people don’t have the luxury of sick days.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      How about the bigger issue, which is the risk of losing your job for calling in. I worked in restaurants for years and if someone came in sick, it wasn’t because they couldn’t afford the lost wages, it was because they were worried about losing their job.

      • OnePumpChump says:

        At Will Employment + Low Wages + No Health Insurance + High Cost of Health Care + No Sick Days = Welcome to >restaurant

        • Shadowfire says:

          Most places there is no such thing as “at will employment.” The minute you are given an employee handbook, at will goes out the window.

          • Thyme for an edit button says:

            That is not true.

            • mindaika says:

              I assume what you are trying to get at is the concept that an employee handbook can be argued to be a “contract” for terms of employment, thereby limiting the extent of ‘at will’ employment. However, in order for that to happen, a person would have to be A) fired without cause, B) in contravention of the handbook and C) sue the employer.

              Most waiters/waitresses don’t make enough to hire labor lawyers to fight their terminations.

          • MaelstromRider says:

            That’s not true. State laws and employment contracts determine whether or not your job is “at will”.

          • kmw2 says:

            a) Very much not so, at-will employment is what the majority of American workers are employed under, and
            b) Most low-paid jobs don’t come with an employee handbook anyhow.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            Employee handbooks *VERY CLEARLY* state that they are in no way contracts of employment guaranteeing any sort of term.

            Down in the “great” southern states, you can be fired for any reason or no reason, handbooks be damned. The only difference between them is that termination with-cause makes you ineligible for UI.

        • Straspey says:

          At Will Employment + Low Wages + No Health Insurance + High Cost of Health Care + No Sick Days = Welcome to >restaurant =

          Having your food (or that of your wife, kids, elderly parent with respiratory problems, etc.) being handled, prepared and/or served by someone who is carrying an infectious and contagious disease = YOU (or one of them) getting sick and having to miss time at work, school, etc = loss of pay, visits to the doctor, medical and prescription drug expenses = ….


          • TheGreySpectre says:

            Yes and no.
            Not that I like getting sick, but I get paid sick leave, so if I get sick it is not lost wages to me. In addition I can remote into my work if I am sick, so unless I am dying I rarely even use any sick leave. What this means is that if I am even feel like I am starting to get sick I stay home so as to save my coworkers the hassle of being sick.

            That being said, I may not miss wages…but I still HATE being sick.

            • Gulliver says:

              So using your sick days is not considered a cost to you? How about your trip to the doctor if required? How about when you employer has to pay for your sick day, or health insurance rates rise because of it? Then they raise prices, which leads to higher prices for all.
              The law is cleear that restaurant employees must stay home if they are infectous, BUT I know of many restaurant owners and corporate managers who would fire an employee or discipline them for calling in sick.I have never seen an employee reprimanded for coming in sick.
              I believe if a restaurant manager allows an ill person to serve, they should be fined say $1000 per offense.

        • dragonfire81 says:

          More like welcome to America.

      • Shadowfire says:

        This. It is illegal to come into work at my store if you have a fever, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, or a host of other symptoms. I’m content enough to let my people stay home in those cases, but I get management pestering me about disciplining them for it.

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        Pretty much what I was getting at.

    • Rose says:

      When I was waiting tables, the almost state-wide policy was that you couldn’t call in without a doctor’s note, and we didn’t have insurance to pay for the doctor. (A few upscale restaurants have okay benefits. Of course, those restaurants have decent enough tips to afford to pay $100 for a walk-in visit, anyway.)

      Anyway, it was very, very normal for servers to go into work sick. I remember one server who gave strep to about half a dozen of my regulars. It’s gross and horrible, but we had the choice between giving your kid the flu and feeding ours. Personally, I chose mine every time.

      (Think about that the next time that you tip.)

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      If someone is working in the food industry sick what can be done to help lessen the chance of contaminating the public-frequent hand washing, surface cleaing, uniform changes, make sure at the symptoms are under control like runny nose? Is the biggest danger for servers or preparers?

  2. TBGBoodler says:

    I can’t believe that anyone who has a job is surprised at this. It’s wrong… but not surprising.

    • AllanG54 says:

      Just remember, this is no different than working on a cruise ship where servers who live in extremely close quarters and get all sorts of colds, flu, and probably norovirus are serving people as well.

  3. JonStewartMill says:

    Well duh. This is America, where paid sick time is a luxury. Would *you* stay home from work when you were sick if you knew it would come out of your paycheck?

    • Etoiles says:

      Right. In the past, I worked retail with a 102 degree fever, because “call in” wasn’t an option.

      Man, I love my 9- desk job.

      • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

        Ditto. I caught something bad one year working retail. I spent the next few days doing my rounds with a shopping cart walker and a box of kleenex in the kiddie seat.

    • Ichabod says:

      Often employers who do not supply health care demand a note from a doctor as well. So miss work AND pay for a doctors visit or work, work wins every time.

    • tbax929 says:

      I have health benefits, and I still don’t stay home when I’m sick. My company uses an FTO system and, quite frankly, I’d rather use my FTO for vacation, not for illness.

  4. Niphil says:

    Next article you’ll be telling us bears shit in the woods.

  5. jrinaudo07 says:

    I work at an upscale restaurant and today I am feeling a cold coming on. When I called my manager to get out of work he told me it’s a Friday night and we need every person on the floor. Enjoy your future cold patrons!.

  6. SkokieGuy says:

    And this will get way better when the Republicans sweep in 3 weeks and overturn health care reforms and eliminate the minimum wage.

    The further we can get from Socialist Europe where people have sick days, a living wage & health care, the better! Those crazy elitists even pay a living wage to waiters and tipping is not customary.

    Luckily, the extended tax breaks to the richest 3% will net them a lot more money that they will use in charitable ways to help the indigent, (oops, I meant working class).

    • Holybalheadedchrist! says:

      Hmmm, I’m detecting some sarcasm. ;-)

      Maybe that Virgin Sex Witch from Delaware will cast a saving spell versus influenza if we elect her.

    • The cake is a lie! says:

      wow… Now I’ve met both people who feel that way. My day is complete.

    • Thespian says:

      Wait a minute, wait a minute…didn’t His Holiness, Saint Obama wave His magic health care wand and solve this problem months ago? Didn’t He? I’m almost certain that Bishops Maddow and Olbermann sent forth the joyous news.

  7. The cake is a lie! says:

    Some jobs you can work while you are sick and others you cannot. If you work in a call center, other than getting everybody else sick, your customer really won’t be impacted by your cold. If you work in food services or health services then I feel it is wrong for you to work when you are very likely infecting everybody. Still… There is very little we can do about it. I’ll bet 100% of people will admit to going out in public when they are sick. I’ll bet 100% will say they have gotten somebody else sick before too. Drink your orange juice and wash your hands and you’ll survive just fine.

    • Alisha Gray says:

      Actually, I work in a call center and have missed the past two days due to some horrible cold or something. I usually lead the group in terms of sales, the day that I came in sick I got none whatsoever. Customers can tell when you’re miserable and out of it and generally won’t want whatever it is you’re selling.

    • angienessyo says:

      At $9 an hour and no sick days people are just going to have to catch my cold. I can’t afford to not come in if I’m sick, and I do work food service. Now I’ve never gone in with something very serious like a flu, but colds yes.

    • Rose says:

      $9 an hour? Wow, that’s a living wage here. When I was waiting tables, I made $2.15 plus tips. Said tips were based on whether or not a whole host of other people did their jobs, including the dishwashers and ESPECIALLY the cooks.

    • smo0 says:

      I work in a call center environment. The death stare goes out to anyone who comes into work sick… mind you – we get sick days… but they are broken up throughout the year – people are usually 100% out of sick time by the time the last amount is given out in July – that means flu season… september (depending on where you live) through January 1st when we get our new allottment of sick time… people are coming into work left and right spreading their disease…

      we even have notices that if you’re sick, do not come to work – but if you don’t have sick time… and you don’t come in – you get fired….. I’m tempted to test that theory out and sue when they fire me… I mean hey, there are notices everywhere about NOT SHOWING UP IF YOU’RE SICK.

  8. jasw says:

    I hope no one is actually surprised by this…

  9. BannedInBrittan says:

    When I worked as a server I did work while ill. Now I wasn’t hacking up a lung or a crazy runny nose. I might have been running a slight temperature or have my symptoms controlled via medication. If I was sick I also would wash my hands more often then normal.

  10. Macgyver says:

    If you are in the food industry and you sick, take off. So what if you don’t get paid, that’s just gross, handling people’s food when you’re sick.

    • SkokieGuy says:

      When you make $2.85 an hour + tips, a lost day’s pay is often not an option. As others have noted, in many places, call in and lose your job.

      • Macgyver says:

        They have laws for min wage. And if you just work for tips, who’s fault is that, but your own.

        • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

          Yes, they have laws for minimum wage. Guess how far that goes even if your employer makes up the difference between your pay, your tips, and the required minimum wage? Not far. And minimum wage is a joke in most places when it comes to actually paying living expenses. If you don’t have paid sick days, make minimum wage, and lose a day or two of work, it’s easy to be unable to pay the bills – and I don’t mean cable, internet, and Showtime, I mean the basics like rent, food, water, electric, and heat.

        • Grabraham says:

          You do realize that just about everyone who has brought a plate of food to you in a restaurant is working for way less than minimum wage + tips right?

        • Doubts42 says:

          Die in a fire asshole

        • MamaBug says:

          since we have such a wide variety for job-pickings nowadays! Especially for those with no experience and/or college degree.
          Wait! I know! Go to college, get in massive amounts of debt, and STILL have no job! Since now employers want both a college degree AND experience, for the most part…wait…does this sound like a cycle?
          Some people have to take what job they can get. Tipping jobs are inconsistent pay-wise, but hell – it’s a job. Let me know when that salaried, 9-5, 6 figure job that you can get with no experience in that field or college degree opens up.

        • jedifarfy says:

          Minimum wage is not a livable wage. Also, many states have laws that allow employers to pay below minimum wage if you make tips. They average how much per hour in tips you CAN make, subtract that from the law, and that’s what you get paid. Even if you DO get a sick day paid, they pay you your WAGE, not wage + tips.

          So, since you seem to be able to look down at those in the service industry, how much are you now willing to tip? How much are you willing to pay to make sure they don’t HAVE to work when sick just to make rent?

        • Ichabod says:

          That is the minimum wage for servers bonehead.

        • kmw2 says:

          Minimum wage doesn’t cover hours you don’t work, does it?

        • Spaceboss says:

          Just for the record, minimum wage doesn’t apply in restaurant work. Neither do most other employee protections, including mandatory breaks and restroom access (it varies from state to state). You can absolutely get fired for calling in sick, and you can also work thirteen straight hours only to owe the register money at the end of the day because you dropped your tips on the ground at some point.

    • aloria says:

      Let me guess: you’re salaried.

    • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

      Yeah. So what if you tell them you can’t come in because you’re sick, and they fire you for taking not passing it on to others seriously. So what if you can’t afford food that week. It’s not such a big deal not being able to pay the electric or gas bill, right? And your kids didn’t really NEED to have a jacket this winter.

      People don’t generally work when they’re sick because they want to or because they don’t care about you. They do it because they have no choice.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Tell that to their starving kids, who got evicted because they couldn’t pay rent because they didn’t work.

      I hate it, too, but if I were in their shoes I doubt I would miss work.

    • veritybrown says:

      And I’m sure you’re willing to pay twice as much or more for the food, so that restaurants can pay their employees for sick days?

    • Rose says:

      When I was waiting tables, the almost state-wide policy was that you couldn’t call in without a doctor’s note, and we didn’t have insurance to pay for the doctor. (A few upscale restaurants have okay benefits. Of course, those restaurants have decent enough tips to afford to pay $100 for a walk-in visit, anyway.)

      Anyway, it was very, very normal for servers to go into work sick. I remember one server who gave strep to about half a dozen of my regulars. It’s gross and horrible, but we had the choice between giving your kid the flu and feeding ours. Personally, I chose mine every time.

      (Think about that the next time that you tip.)

    • rambo76098 says:

      Very few restaurants will give you a day off for being sick. Unless you collapse on the floor, you’re not going home, even if customers complain about you hacking up a lung in front of them. Welcome to the world of foodservice. Yet another reason to cook for yourself.

  11. SkokieGuy says:

    The man in the photo appears to have issues with his feet.

  12. aloria says:

    Even at places where people get sick leave, most people will come in coughing and sneezing up a storm, either because they feel their work is too important to neglect for a few days, or because they’re worried about being considered a slacker. If you come in sick, everyone knows you’re sick, but when you stay home, nobody knows if you’re truly ill or just faking it for a day off. Get sick too often, and people assume the latter.

    At a place where the decision is come in to work sick or miss a day’s pay, it’s even less surprising, especially in the food industry, where your paycheck isn’t terribly large to begin with. A day sick can mean not being able to make rent for a lot of people.

    • zatoism says:

      I”m the same way! I feel awful calling in sick. I feel like people will think i’m just being lazy or taking a day and lying. If i come in sick and go home, I can rest comfortably!

    • Lollerface says:

      I think Consumerist did an article in the past about feeling guilty for calling in sick. I couldn’t find it so I may have read it elsewhere. But it’s a common sentiment.

    • MsFab says:

      That’s very true. I went on vacation & contracted strep throat while I was gone, but I didn’t have symptoms until I was back at work. It took my boss forcing me out of the office & to the doctor to get me to leave, even though I could barely sit or stand, because I knew I needed to be in.

      Sometimes sick time is a luxury even folks with sick days can’t take…especially in this recession.

    • Mom says:

      Who has sick leave anymore? Everyplace now has “PTO”, where if I take a day off, it comes out of the measly amount of vacation time I get. I haven’t taken a “sick” day in 5 years as a result. Occasionally, I can “work from home”. Other days, I stay in my cube and tell people to stay away.

    • runswithscissors says:

      My workaholic boss never gets sick, so she considers sick days to basically be stealing from the company. So we come to work sick. It’s that or risk being seen as a slacker/lazy/dishonest by her and she has a million ways to punish us and eventually end our careers.

      No, upper management won’t do a thing about her because she “gets results”.

      Yes, I am actively applying for other jobs. Most of my team is. She doesn’t care.

  13. kalaratri says:

    When I worked at McD’s, you needed a doctor’s note if you called in sick or you would be fired. Of course McD’s had everybody as part-time (with 39 hours) so no health insurance, so no one could afford to go to the doctor’s unless body parts started falling off. Not to mention the doctor doesn’t want to see you if you’ve just got a cold or something else they can’t give you anything for.

    So off to work we went hacking and coughing and blowing our noses all the time. I did my best to keep washing my hands all the time, but since McD’s also wants you to get all the orders out in a ridiculously short period of time or the managers will flip out on you… well, hopefully I didn’t get too many other people sick.

    • Corinthos says:

      Exactly its like that with most fast food. When I was in high school some guy had scabbies and gave another person at work got it. This was at mcdonalds because they made him come in or get a doctors note on a saturday which would mean he would have to go to an ER since his doctors hours weren’t on weekends.

      • kalaratri says:

        I had to call off on a Sunday (I had severe bronchitis and I just couldn’t stand the idea of spreading it, besides the fact I couldn’t barely stand up) Had to drive to 8 different ‘urgent care’ centers to find one that could take me and it ended costing me $150, which was half of my paycheck.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I hate that doctor’s note shit. The majority of illness you experience in life is colds and flus. Neither of which require a doctor unless complications occur or symptoms don’t dissapate in a reaosnable amount of time.

      The doctor can’t do anything, so why require you see him/her?

      • Tim says:

        It’s not about requiring you to see a doctor so you get better. They don’t care if you get better.

        They just want proof that you’re sick. One of the many ridiculous aspects of the policy is that doctors ought not be bogged down with people with colds coming in just to get a note.

    • aloria says:

      Heck, even WITH health insurance, and getting a doctor’s note for a day off sick is still an unreasonable expectation.

      First, it assumes you’re in a healthy enough state to either get on public transportation (risking infecting others,) or drive (unsafe if you’re dizzy or have a migrane.) You’re basically SoL unless you’ve got a friend or significant other who can take you, but those people usually have jobs to go to, too.

      Two, it assumes you can actually find a doctor who can see you on such short notice. Most doctors in my area are booked for up to a week before an appointment is available, and for walk-ins you’ll expect to wait around three hours before you can be seen. I know I would rather recover from a cold with rest and fluids, not sitting around a waiting room for hours.

      I think a doctors note for a lengthy amount of time, like several days or week, is a reasonable thing to ask, but for a day or two? Stupid.

  14. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    This is what happens when you criminally under pay / under benefit your work force.

  15. Blious says:

    I can see this…and I know people who do it

    I have done it. I do not work for a resturant but I do work around a lot of people

    Am I selfish? Yes but guess what, I have work to do….which trumps others

  16. AstroWorn2010 says:

    Thanks for the input skippy but are you going to pay for their day off and make them some nice chicken noodle soup too?

  17. Lollerface says:

    of course … not everyone gets sick time

  18. tungstencoil says:

    From my restaurant days:

    Unless you were visibly ill – and by visibly, I mean a *customer* would have no chance of not realizing you were rotting and gangrenous – calling off was tantamount to resigning. Period.

    Once I’d worked places for a long time (1+ year) and proved my “worth” a bit, I might get away with it. I remember working:

    1. The day after my wisdom teeth were pulled. Hey – not contagious!
    2. With the flu.
    3. Vomiting with the flu.
    4. After catching put-you-in-the-hospital food poisoning, until such time that the local health department tracked me down and told my employer I couldn’t work until cleared AND that they couldn’t penalize me for it.
    5. With employees who had contact with an employee who had Hep A. I never caught it thankfully, and no outbreak was attributed to the restaurant.
    6. Did I mention the flu?

    Note that this also means that the kitchen staff essentially never calls off, because customers can’t really tell – even in an ‘open’ kitchen – if someone is sick.

  19. Nic715 says:

    As a former server I can tell you one thing that discouraged me…I worked at several restaurants and all but one had a rule that when we called in, it was our responsibility to get our shift covered…either that or face a write-up and/or we’d have key shifts taken away for a few weeks before we ‘proved’ ourselves again…I don’t know about anyone else, but if I’m sick enough to call in…(And I hardly EVER call in because the act of calling in makes me more sick than any virus ever could!) then the LAST thing I want to do is call 30 of my coworkers and beg for them to take my shift…..if I’m that sick I just want to SLEEP! Its especially hard on typically slow week nights and Sundays..the funny part to me is they made us sign papers that said we wouldn’t come to work if we had any symptoms of anything contagious per health dept. law and they’d STILL make us get the shift covered ourselves!

    • Rose says:

      They gave you the contact information for 30 co-workers???????

      Wow. They suck.

      • Doubts42 says:

        Every restaurant I have ever worked in there has been a sheet in the back (usually on the posted shift schedule) that had the names and contact numbers of every server working there. Exactly so that we could get shifts covered and/or traded. Of course no waiter answers the phone when a call from work or a co-worker show up on their phone.

  20. Ilovegnomes says:

    I want to see the next story headline read, “Why The Consumerist Wants You To Hate Restaurants.”

  21. Doubts42 says:

    I have been both the server and the manager in the restaurant biz. I have also worked at every level of service from fast food to 5 star gourmet dining. This happens at every level.
    As a server you can’t afford to miss a nights work, and you stand a pretty good chance at being fired for missing a shift, unless you can find a co-worker willing to cover. As a manager you get 2 to five calls a night from servers who don’t want to work. probably 40% of them are legitimately ill, the rest are hung over, stoned, or want to go to a party/concert, so that they can be hungover tomorrow.

    Also how do you think those servers got ill. Maybe handling your dishes and being around you when you went out to eat while you were sick.

  22. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I worked in food service for a long time and never did I have more than one week’s vacation time for the whole year, at a full-time job for a cafeteria company. For part-time jobs it was nothing. So I either worked sick and washed my hands obsessively or lost a day’s pay. There was no alternative. The only place I ever had health insurance was the cafeteria.

  23. xanxer says:

    Low wage workers have a hard time calling out due to not having sick leave and managers get angry when they have to find shift coverage.
    The US really doesn’t have strong laws providing workers with sick and holiday leave.
    Also the fact that health insurance is tied to employment is a load of garbage.

  24. dwasifar says:

    I remember once I was at a McDonalds at a tollway oasis, and the girl running the register had a bad cold. As she was about to close the cash drawer, an enormous runny snot dripped out of her nose into one of the change bins. She didn’t notice. I was grossed out and considered ratting her out to her manager on health grounds, but I decided not to, figuring that if she was that sick and still came to work, she couldn’t afford to be sent home.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      That’s another issue. I remember working at McD’s in college, tried to call off sick and was asked to just come in for a few hours. I did. I probably shouldn’t have.

      Now I work for a large corporation but don’t have sick days. If you call off and are not exempt, you lose the pay unless you use a vacation day or make up the time. That’s hard to do when it’s at the end of the year or the end of the week so you end up coming to work sick.

  25. MurderGirl says:

    Rest of headline: “Other 37% Were Lying”

  26. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    It happens in more fields than people might think…

    Hell, I got better benefits when I was a waitress than now, as an IT manager at a renewable energy company.

  27. axiomatic says:

    Ummmm shouldn’t this title read: “63% Of Restaurant Managers Admit To Letting Servers Serve Customers While Sick”


  28. Southern says:

    Consulting is pretty much the same way.. If you are a consultant and you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Most consultants also do not have the luxury of getting health insurance through the consulting company, OR it costs an arm, a leg, AND your first born child..

    A study like this doesn’t surprise me in the least.

  29. teke367 says:

    In my experience, I would work sick more because I didn’t want to lose my job than lose one day’s pay. It would be exhausting trying to call out when you are sick to a manager, they usually don’t care (to be fair, when my nephew was born, I called and asked to not work, I didn’t pretend to be sick, and my bosses said it was totally fine, so it kind of depends on who you work for, or how busy they expect it to be).

    However, whenever there was a scare in the news about a virus going around, my bosses (all of them) were very much “don’t come in to work today” if you called up sick. But that had more to do with not wanting to be the restaurant that made hundreds of people ill.

  30. jedifarfy says:

    Solution: face masks. I work retail and I’ll use those and hand sanitizer. I have a few sick days, but I’ll save those for something more serious like the flu.

    • Doubts42 says:

      A waiter in a face mask may as well stay home. How much are you going to tip typhoid mary as she mumbles the specials through a mask? I don’t know any food service manager that would allow you to work that way.

  31. Geekmom says:

    I used to date a waiter at a local Tex-Mex place and he was sick as a dog with the flu. His boss would not let him off and he was told if he didn’t come in he could forget about his job.
    He’d been working their for 6 years. He went in and worked. He couldn’t afford not too.

  32. JiminyChristmas says:

    Closely related, but not mentioned in the article, is what people do when their kids are sick and they don’t have paid time off to take care of them. If the child is school-aged, guess what? The kid is likely going to be sent to school sick.

    If the kid is in day care it’s an even bigger problem. Unlike a public school, a day care has more leeway to say “Don’t even think of bringing your sick child to day care.” or calling you at work to insist that you pick up your sick child now. Then what?

  33. elc32955 says:

    This happened to me on Wednesday night. The server at the aussie-branded steakhouse that was working my table was on the job with a case of strep throat (thankfully on the downside or so he said). After the (birthday!) meal was hosed up and we ended up getting manager intervention, he was trying to make small talk about his throat during the last week and half and where he picked up the bug from, blaming the folks at a country chain restaurant down the road for sneezing in his food. Mmmmmmm….. Waiting for my throat to go south now…

  34. stint7 says:

    It’s the people that call off when they aren’t really sick that ruin for the rest of us who are genuinely ill. I am always at work sick or not. If I did call off, no one would cover me but they get miffed at me when I can’t work a double to cover them because they wanted to go out and get drunk…

  35. qualityleashdog says:

    I’m not surprised. I worked for years manufacturing ready to eat cakes for Kroger. So many women in the department, all constantly with sick children. Bringing it to work, spreading it around. I was never sick in college, but once I started working around a ton of people with constantly sick children, I was catching everything that went around.
    We burned our sick days, and then came in sick anyhow. No choice, come in or be fired. And when we were absolutely unable to show up and had no days, we called in and headed to the doctor for a medical leave. The company insurance paid for the doctor’s visit (often just for a simple cold or something flu-like) and the company policy mandated medical leaves had to last at least seven days. Even if we only needed a day or two to get better. How was that beneficial to the company? We can’t have a day off, but if we go to the doctor, let the insurance pay for and stay out for at least seven days, even if unnecessary, we could keep our jobs?
    Coughing, sneezing, bodily fluids running, it didn’t matter to them, because the public didn’t see who was making the cakes.

    • qualityleashdog says:

      Yeah, and I remember the worst time, I went after a Saturday shift to the emergency room. They determined that I had pneumonia. But ER’s here won’t sign medical leave papers, so I went home and went to work on Monday, thinking it would run its course. I said I wasn’t going to be lifting anything (a very small part of the job, that any number of other workers were glad to cover for me) and the supervisor insisted that I spend a half an hour lifting boxes. I had to leave work (leaving in the middle of a shift counted for two sick days), go see a doctor and get my medical leave papers. The supervisor wasn’t concerned that I had pneumonia, he was only concerned that I do all of the job unless I had restrictions from a doctor. After leaving during a shift, I couldn’t even settle for the restrictions, I had to just take the leave.

  36. neverandever says:

    Yeah, not surprised. I’ve worked through plenty of awful, contagious things.

    Honestly, though, I’d be more worried about the health of the kitchen staff as opposed to the server. You can’t see them, you don’t know how healthy they are or how often they’re washing their hands. In every restaurant I’ve worked in, the kitchen staff is comprised of five or six core people that work open-close six days a week. They can’t afford to not come in, and they’re usually pretty run-down and therefore susceptible to whatever’s going around.

  37. TheGreySpectre says:

    There are similar problems in some departments in colleges. I know this was a big problem in the electrical engineering department where I went to school. You got so far behind if you missed a day that no one ever skipped class, even when they were sick. The end result was that the entire engineering class got sick quite often.

  38. microserfian says:

    It’s really only 48%. They automatically added an extra 15% to the total for our convenience.

  39. angienessyo says:

    I work food service and damn straight I’m there even when sick. If the company I work for would give me sick days I wouldn’t dare come in sick. But I can’t afford to do that. I do have insurance but unless I am just throwing up or can’t move, I go to work. Now if customers would stop coming into my place of work sick and coughing and then hand me their money right after they coughed into their hands, maybe I would get sick less. (provided I always wash my hands after dealing with an obviously sick person but that’s not going to stop me from being exposed to the germs in the air)

    Right now I have 4 coworkers that are very sick, and more of us keep catching whatever it is going around because obviously they have to come in still. I’m inevitably going to catch it and be stuck coming in sick as well. But not much I can do. I’ve been loading on up vitamins and washing my hands and doing what I can to avoid it, but I’m sure I’ll get it too.

  40. haggis for the soul says:

    Only 63%?

  41. Rose says:

    Yes. When I was waiting tables, the almost state-wide policy was that you couldn’t call in without a doctor’s note, and we didn’t have insurance to pay for the doctor. (A few upscale restaurants have okay benefits. Of course, those restaurants have decent enough tips to afford to pay $100 for a walk-in visit, anyway.)

    Anyway, it was very, very normal for servers to go into work sick. I remember one server who gave strep to about half a dozen of my regulars. It’s gross and horrible, but we had the choice between giving your kid the flu and feeding ours. Personally, I chose mine every time.

    (Think about that the next time that you tip.)

  42. Anri says:

    “I’m sick and contagious and the doctor says I shouldn’t work.”
    “I don’t have anyone to cover for you. Just try not to look at the food.”

  43. dragonpancakes says:

    A few years back I had a severe flu, and on superbowl sunday too! I called in sick as soon as someone was there. A few hours later I got a call back, they said everyone else called in sick as well and if I didn’t come in I’d be fired. I don’t know how many of you have worked at a pizza place, on superbowl sunday (especially) but it gets busy and hot! Working in a 130 degree kitchen for 8 hours with no breaks isn’t good for the flu, and neither is making over 250 pizzas in one day. Oh well, if hundreds of people got sick (and God forbid some die) wouldn’t be my fault. Enjoy your pizza!

  44. morpheoush says:

    When I was a waiter we always worked when sick. If you called out you risked being fired for it. The majority of the time if anyone said they were sick it was met with immediate disbelief and accusations of faking it. I quit the restaurant when I had to work expo and was so feverish I could barely stand up. Told my manager i had to leave and that he would need to stop enjoying his evening meal with the regional manager, and he told me to suck it up and don’t cough on the food. right-o.

    One problem is that restaurants have a limited number of waiters available, and if no one else can make it in to cover, what can they do? people want to be served, and no one wants to see 3 empty tables all Friday night because there’s not enough staff to wait on the customers. Besides, if a customer gets sick, they hardly ever blame their server when they get the sniffles 2 days later, so there’s little incentive to keep sick employees away from the food.

  45. Draw2much says:

    I think the reason this happens is because management can’t tell whether someone is legitimately sick or is just a worker trying to skip out of work for whatever reason. If a system could be set up to cheaply identify who’s really sick and who’s not, I bet that’d help.

    I’ve never worked in the service industry. But frankly, I wish management would let their workers off, if only for a day, if they’re sick. It’s disturbing thinking a restaurant cares more about profit than the well being of it’s workers AND customers!

  46. Extractor says:

    Im not catching any virus from my patients and had a flu shot 1 month ago. It takes about 2 weeks for the vaccine to be functional. This year’s vaccine includes protection against the H1N1 virus as well as a couple others; usually trivalent (3). If I do become ill, antibiotics will be my weapon of choice since they dont work on viruses and I should already be immunized against the expected viruses. Amantadine only works on Type A viruses. I dont want to get sick and dont want to miss any work.

  47. kmw2 says:

    Back in my food service days, I worked for a month with unmedicated pneumonia, because they wouldn’t give me time off and I couldn’t afford to get fired. The two weeks I was coughing too badly to take orders, they put me back in the kitchen. I wasn’t working because I wanted to make people sick, believe me – I was working because I didn’t want my toddler to go hungry.

  48. Destron says:

    Ya, Most people just do it because it’s a choice between keeping their job or staying home. Most large companies have very strict policies in place that you should not come to work sick, but there is no protection in place to keep you from getting fired if you don’t come in.

    I won’t lie, when I worked for Walmart I hated the way their sick policy worked. You was not allowed to use sick pay the first day you called in, but you could use sick pay for any consecutive days after that, plus, you can call in up to 3 consecutive days and it only dinged your attendance for one occurrence. So… 99% of the time, weather they needed it or not, if some one called in one day you could almost guarantee they was calling in two more so they missed 3 days, 2 paid, and often would string it with their days off for a 5 day weekend.

  49. MrHacks says:

    How many of them worked at a restaurant where they served spicy dishes with hot peppers in it?

  50. Gregg Araki Rocks My World says:

    When you don’t have access to affordable healthcare, what do you expect?

  51. u1itn0w2day says:

    Picking food off the floor then serving it, spitting on food for personal revenge, roaches in the kitchen, using outdated/detiorating food, under cooking food, not washing dishes and flatware properly, using the same dirty wipe rag to clean a table in between customers- what else is new?

  52. Clyde Barrow says:

    For the other survey, 63% Of Restaurant Workers Admit that they’ll be fired if they call in sick.

  53. techphets says:

    Remember this when you see how successful McDonalds is and when you read that many of today’s millionaires own fast food restaurants. Could those entities afford to pay sick days and/or health insurance? Of course. Sure, it may cause the businesses that are on the verge of failing to fail but the successful businesses would just take up the slack.

    As an ex-fast food employee I remember working while sick plenty of times. Sometimes because I needed the money. Other times because I knew that calling in sick would look bad and could jeopardize my chances at getting a $0.05 raise in the coming months. For those who were already looking at slim raises the penalty could be even worse.

    There is a dilemma. Many of those workers would take advantage of any situation like this. In my opinion the solution is better management and better wages. Do not hire and employ those workers in the first place. Only greed could confuse someone into believing that they are actually making more money by choosing to employ that stature of worker.

    Since I do not work in that industry any longer I honestly do not care as much about the rights of the workers themselves as much as I do about the spread of illnesses. Even for those who do not eat out the illnesses will spread- through schools, workplaces, etc.

    Of course, there’s always a second side to every coin. Illnesses spreading may help our immune systems. Personally, I’d like to see every sick person at home on their couch until they get better, regardless of where they work.

  54. u1itn0w2day says:

    And no thanks to meth heads & lazy drug case investigators if you forget your drivers license to buy something at the local drug store so you at least can control your symptoms and save 100 bucks the customers/public will be contaminated and the meth head will simply steal their otc drugs to perpetuate their criminal behavior.

  55. sknewhouse says:

    I’ve worked while sick many times. Calling in is frowned upon, shifts must be made up within two weeks (which, if someone gets something like swine flu that knocks them out for a week, means working double hours or facing the possibility of being fired), and a doctor’s note is required on certain dates (major football games, some holidays, and after more than three sick calls IN A YEAR).

    I remember one day when I was scheduled to be plating up desserts. I was coming down with a very bad cold, and I asked my supervisor if I could be moved to a cleaning shift so I wouldn’t be in contact with the food. Her response? “It’ll be fine, just try to change your gloves a bit more often.”

  56. Buy used! says:

    One of the worst days of my life was due to food poisoning. I complained to the city health department, and wouldn’t you know it, they paid the restaurant a visit the next day and caught a dude (from a country south of us known for their frequent intestinal viruses) handling the salad greens with his bare hands.

    Now that I have kids, it’s pretty rare that we eat out because, like it or not, you may be putting your and your children’s lives into the hands of unsanitary and desperate people. Cook at home and stay healthier on many levels!

  57. Syntania says:

    The sad part is, what everyone is saying is pretty much true. The foodservice industry in America is typically looked upon as a “lower-end” employer, meaning teenagers and low-income adults. For the most part, they can’t afford to take the time off, they can’t afford to see a doctor that many places require or lose their jobs, so they come to work sick and suffer through it. The management has seen too many people who “call in sick” just so they don’t have to go to work, so they have been jaded against the suffering of those legitimately ill. Also, most times foodservice place work on a shoestring labor budget, so if one or more people is missing from the roster due to illness, it really puts strain and stress on the operations, so managers are hesitant to go without anyone. If foodservice industries would start offering paid sick days and/or paid visits to the dr.s to verify said illnesses, I think we’d see less occurances of sick employees trying to work.

  58. banmojo says:

    this is the tip of a very big, very ugly iceberg. having worked in the restaurant scene for 10+ years when putting myself through school, oh gosh, I really can’t believe I have the cast iron GI system necessary to STiLL force myself to eat in restaurants. Nasty nasty nasty ….

  59. nickcv says:

    I’ve been working in restaurants for about three years, and I haven’t been sick very often. I figure I’m being exposed to a lot of sick people on a daily basis, and my immune system has toughened up as a response. I also obsessively wash my hands, which doesn’t hurt.