Sick leave policy violations blamed for Chipotle norovirus outbreak
- Chipotle's failure to enforce sick leave policies is being blamed for the recent norovirus outbreak in a Virginia restaurant, CNBC reports. Restaurant workers' online posts claim supervisors insisted that employees work while sick. The restaurant, which offers paid sick leave, is blaming an infected worker for causing the outbreak.
- Other workers revealed through a viral cell phone video safety issues at other Chipotle restaurants as well, including rat infestation and unsafe food preparation. The company admitted that some supervisors failed to follow company protocol.
- Chipotle officials told CNBC that the restaurant chain has health and safety measures in place, including hazard analysis critical control points (HACCPs) which screen employees daily to make sure no one is working while sick.
Pressuring employees to work while ill to increase or maintain productivity has the opposite effect. Sick workers don't perform their jobs as well as usual and risk spreading contagious illnesses to other workers. A Staples Business Advantage survey showed that 80% of employees come to work ill knowing the risk of infecting others.
States have begun implementing paid sick leave laws in an attempt to protect employees and keep them more productive in the long-term. But those programs are next to useless if they aren't enforced and if employees are not encouraged to take it when they need it. Company communication needs to make it clear that working while sick is not expected or okay in order for such programs to actually bear fruit.
Chipotle is far from the only company accused of poor implementation. Walmart employees recently filed a lawsuit claiming the company penalized them for taking sick time off, and Amazon was caught paying German warehouse workers bonuses for not taking provided sick leave time.
Employers must take full responsibility for systemic workplace problems, paid leave violations or otherwise. HR must step in to ensure that workplace rules and policies are followed. CHROs and HR managers can lead their organizations toward more ethical ways of operating and even rebuild cultures, if necessary.