Sick Chef

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How Often Do Restaurant Employees Really Work While Sick?

The cook making your sandwich might have a bad cold
Sick Chef

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It's not uncommon for restaurant staff to work sick. 

When we’re sick with either a cold or stomach virus, we tend to avoid handling other people’s food just out of common courtesy, as we don’t want to get them sick, too. So what are restaurant employees to do when they feel themselves coming down with something? Though you might assume that they all call in sick, a lot more workers than you realize just tough it out.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently conducted a study of employees at 426 random restaurants by speaking to a manager and at least one worker at each about working while sick. The researchers discovered that 12 percent of workers said they’d worked two or more shifts in the past year while sick with vomiting or diarrhea. They also found that workers were more likely to work sick when the restaurant served more than 300 meals per day; when there was no policy requiring workers to notify a manager of illness; when there were no substitutes on-call; and when the manager had fewer than four years of experience. Male workers were also more likely to work sick than were female workers.

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So if your server’s complexion looks a bit pallid, or if you spy a cook blowing his or her nose in the kitchen, don’t assume that if they were really sick they’d call out. And don’t risk your own health: Take your business somewhere else.