"Stay home if you're sick."
That's the message to food industry workers from the nation's public health watchdog, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The problem is staying home isn't an option for food industry workers - 70% of whom are low wage employees with no paid sick days.
The health agency last month issued a bulletin that said the worst food-borne illnesses originated from contaminated food handled by sick workers.
It includes norovirus, the nasty stomach bug that is notorious for causing vomiting and diarrhea in cruise ship passengers. The virus also causes 20 million Americans in land to get sick every year. And infected food industry workers cause 70% of the cases.
But for most workers, taking off when sick means no pay, and at worst a lost job.
Read - These food workers have to work while sick – a risk to all of us
Food safety: Take matters into your own hands
I've been in the industry for over 10 years. The problem for me was never the loss of income from taking a sick day, it was that the managers demanded you provide a doctors note, so not only would you loose the pay from not working, you had to shell out an extra however much a doctors visit costs, even if it was something like a 24 hour stomach bug that the doctor could do nothing about. In consequence, I've had to handle food and beverage with food poisoning, a sinus infection, the flu, and a thrown out back, as have many of my coworkers over the years. This practice should be illegal. It's one thing to pay nothing and treat employees like dirt, I get that I'm considered 'low skilled' (I'm very highly skilled but thats the umbrella you fall under working in the hospitality industry), but no one should have to work with the flu.
I had a different but just as scary experience at the grocery store the other day. The young woman who was bagging my groceries (and touching all of them, of course) was talking to the cashier about how sick she felt, what medicines she was taking and all sorts of grossness. I wanted to sanitize all my groceries once I got home. Yuck.
I worked for some real azz hats in the restaurant business that absolutely refused to send sick employees home. Glad I'm out of that racket now.
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