Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 21, 2014
Contact: Maria [at] rocunited [dot] org

Case of Subway Employee Working While Sick Typical of Restaurant Workers Across the U.S.
Due to Lack of Paid Sick Days Across Restaurant Industry, Majority Work While Sick or Fear Losing their Job

Houston, TX — Last Thursday, Local 2 Houston reported that a Subway employee was fired after being rushed to the hospital due to working with violent stomach flu. She came to work sick because she was afraid she would lose her job, but as the stomach flu worsened, her manager repeatedly denied her requests to go home. An employee from a nearby restaurant saw her passed out outside, and drove her to the hospital. She was ultimately fired.

The problem of working while sick is endemic to the restaurant industry due to an overwhelming lack of paid sick days:

-According to our national report, Serving While Sick, of more than 4,000 workers surveyed, more than 87% of restaurant workers surveyed report not having paid sick days and more than 60% reported working while sick.

-The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified restaurants as the leading sources of foodborne disease outbreaks — overwhelming caused by norovirus.

-Due to lack of paid sick days and poverty wages, restaurant workers often work while sick to avoid missing a day of pay. The base wage for tipped workers is as low as $2.13 an hour, resulting in servers using food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the workforce and being three-times as likely to live in poverty.

In response to the rising popularity of local paid sick days legislation around the country, the National Restaurant Association has also come out strongly in support of state level preemption bills that forbid cities from instituting paid sick day and wage laws entirely, successfully shepherding preemption legislation through nine states, and has helped introduce preemption legislation in seven more.

“There are easily more than 10 million restaurant workers in the U.S. With over half having had to work while sick — that’s more than 5 million people who should be at home recovering but instead are touching, preparing, and serving food to the public because they don’t have paid sick days, fear losing their jobs, or just can’t afford to take a day off because their pay is already so low,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-director and co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. “The National Restaurant Association’s opposition to paid sick days for restaurant workers is a public health disaster; we can point to the restaurant industry as the source of stomach flu every single season.”

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 Co-founded by labor rights leader Saru Jayaraman (“One of the top 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry” – Nation’s Restaurant News) ROC United has grown to over 13,000 members across 26 cities in the US, winning 13 worker-led campaigns, totaling $7 million in stolen tips and wages.