How Many Sick People Are Handling Your Food?

Across the many sectors that make up the North American food industry, a majority of workers say they "always" or "frequently" show up to work despite being sick, according to a new survey out this week.

The researchers surveyed more than 1,200 food workers over the summer. The results found that while a majority of food workers reported feeling responsible for the health and safety of their customers, nearly half of those who do go to work sick do it because they "can't afford to lose pay," or they "don't want to let co-workers down."

The study sheds stark light on a facet of low-paying jobs that has the potential to jolt the consuming public into awareness. According to the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), some 90 percent of restaurant workers do not have paid sick days, creating a dilemma for many low-wage workers providing for themselves or a family: take care of their health or put food on the table.

For low-wage workers without sick days, a bout of the flu "can mean being forced to choose between a day's pay or staying home to take care of themselves or their family, but unfortunately, most restaurant workers can't afford to lose a day's pay, so they instead resort to working while sick," ROC wrote after the Mexican food chain Chipotle announced paid sick leave for hourly workers last summer.

Workers choosing to come to work sick is nothing new. A study from 2012 done by the ROC and the Food Chain Workers Alliance found that almost 80 percent of workers either did not have or were not aware of having paid sick days, and as a result, over half of surveyed workers said they had showed up to shifts sick.

Moreover, separate research draws links between workers showing up sick and a fear of workplace retaliation for taking days off.

As NPR notes, some states, including California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Oregon, and a number of cities nationwide have legislation in place to help guarantee workers paid sick time off. Some restaurants, like Chipotle, are also beginning to invest in paid sick leave for employees. Many other employers still lag behind in providing benefits to workers. McDonald's, for example, announced in April wage increases and benefits like paid vacation time and financial assistance for employees taking college courses. Still, the change only affected 10 percent of the corporation's stores (not franchise workers), with workers' benefits at the remaining 90 percent staying unchanged.

According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, more than 43 million private sector workers in the U.S. have no access to sick leave, while the sick leave pay gap remains robust. According to research by the Center for Economic Policy Research, only about half of workers in the bottom quarter earnings bracket have any paid vacation, compared to approximately 90 percent of top-quarter earners.

Learn more about conditions for fast food workers below:


I've worked at McDonald's for 22 years. Here is my story.

Bart has worked at McDonald's for 22 years. They have only increased his wage 29 cents per year. Learn about his #FightFor15.

Posted by ATTN: on Wednesday, April 15, 2015