Illness, A Result of Sick Restaurant Employees

by Vins
Published: Updated:


Waitresses and restaurant staff are underpaid. In this economy, restaurant staff are paid so little—the federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 per hour—that employees must work as much as possible to make ends meet. When it comes to being ill, servers have little choice but to go to work anyhow, resulting in a “hidden public health crisis,” as Saru Jayaraman reports for the Washington Spectator.

Even though managers tell workers to call in sick when they are ill, many managers will still encourage sick workers to come to work, or managers will not send workers home unless they are so ill that customers notice. When customers, who have been exposed to germs on food, utensils, drinks, straws, and other items handled by sick workers, subsequently become ill themselves, they may believe they caught something from someone at work or at home. If restaurant owners would give paid sick time and increase server wages, then restaurant employees would be able to take time off, see a doctor, and get better.

As Jayaraman reports, powerful interests shape what is legal regarding sick days for restaurant workers. “The National Restaurant Association pours millions into sandbagging attempts to win paid sick days laws in cities and counties across the country.” Furthermore, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Darden—a Fortune 500 corporation that owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and eight other brands—have collaborated to introduce bills in more than a dozen states that prohibit any locality in those states from passing paid sick day ordinances. The bills have already passed in eight states.


Saru Jayaraman, “The Hidden Public Health Crisis,”The Washington Spectator, November 08, 2013,

Student Researcher: Breana DuBois (Indian River State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Elliot Cohen (Indian River State University)