UnderCover Waitress: New Year, New Sick Pay Policy in Connecticut

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year, New Sick Pay Policy in Connecticut

"What are you looking forward to in the new year?" is Paul's question to bloggers in today's edition of #letsblogoff. Paul then eloquently discusses the namesake of the month of January, the Roman god Janus. 

"Janus had two faces, one that looked forward and and another that looked backward. It’s difficult to look ahead without assessing the past or at least taking stock of where you are now. That’s the function Janus played –he looked forward and assessed the past at the same time. That was his role in the Roman pantheon, the ability to look back and ahead concurrently."

According to Salvatore Balbones at Truthout:

"On January 1, Connecticut will become the first state in the United States to require at least some employers to provide paid sick leave for their employees. The Connecticut law covers only a fraction of the state's workers, caps the required paid sick leave at five days per year..."

The caveats go on to clarify that very few workers will benefit from this change, so we needn't get too excited. However, it is still a microscopic change for the better. 

Looking back, I recognize that the most vulnerable workers are the ones who do not enjoy sick pay. When a worker cannot afford to get sick, she goes to work sick. If she has a temporary office job, the other workers will either laud her for her dedication (which is a cruel joke in itself; she is not dedicated, she is poor) or get annoyed that she had the audacity to bring her sick germs into the office. 

That's the thing about office labor positions. In some cases, even if there are no sick pay benefits, workers may still take time off due to illness because they may be temporarily replaced with a Kelley Services temporary worker. Sometimes. 

The same, better-paid executives who do not wish to be handed documents that the sick worker just sneezed all over often go out to nice places for lunch. 

Little do they think about how restaurant workers seldom (if ever?) receive sick pay benefits. Perhaps they trust us to be professional enough to not cough into the soup we are ladling into bowls. (Honestly, we try not to.) They may even trust us to be professional enough to not work around other people's food while sick. Professionalism has nothing to do with it. 

The restaurant industry is notorious for making people work while ill. There are no temporary employees who can be called to fill in. A major root of the problem is that so many restaurants operate with skeleton crews. Waitresses are often responsible for getting their shifts covered if they cannot work, and if they can't get the shift covered, they work! Kitchen workers often work while sick for the same reasons. 

I have had tables give me dirty looks while I cough into my shoulder or elbow. I wasn't working sick because I wanted to. I was working sick because if I had gone home, I would have been told not to come back. I can remember being ready to fall over and asking if I could please go home now. No, I was needed on the floor. 

I've seen people come to work straight from the pharmacy after picking up their antibiotic. They shouldn't be around other people's food for 24 hours after starting the medicine. I've watched sick kitchen employees drag themselves through their shifts. 

An executive being annoyed at a sick office worker but then trusting that they are not being served by a sick waitress is laughable. 

Looking forward, I highly doubt that restaurant workers will benefit from the changes implemented in Connecticut. However, a small handful of workers will benefit from this new policy. To those few workers, the change is a great boon, and a small step in the right direction. 

I hope our nation continues in this more generous direction. With Michelle Bachman advocating for abolishing minimum wage, and the masses of people who grouse about tipping in restaurants, we need to move in this other direction. 

Contrary to the beliefs of the uber-conservative, employers who allow employees the ability to take time off when sick and not lose pay do not go bankrupt. Rather, they gain employee loyalty. They keep well-trained employees and actually save money that would be spent hiring and training new employees when the old get sick of them. Let's face it: nobody wants to work for an a$$hat. Treat your employees well, and they will stick around and make you more money. 

Balbones' article in Truthout spells out the situation in Australia. The system there is set up to distribute wealth among the vast majority of workers, not just 1% of the entire population. Looking forward, I hope our country learns more lessons from the other first-world nations as 2012 continues. Lessons such as sick pay, family leave, and access to health care. Janus, what do you see? 


  1. Thanks for pointing out some of the poor treatment of hard working restaurant employees. I have cringed at a cough or two by a server myself. Hopefully, things are on their way to changing.

  2. Sure, I don't want to be served by someone who is contagious, either. Sometimes, the sick server doesn't want to be there, either! ;-)

  3. A very interesting post. I hadn't realised that the restaurant industry was so notorious for making people work while sick. I hope you have a happy New Year.

  4. Good post, and ever timely.

    One would wish we were living in a society where progressive wasn't viewed by so many as an obscene word.

  5. Thanks, William. Republicans just had a televised debate last night and I am in shock and disgusted with how out of touch they are with reality.

    People work when they are sick because they cannot afford to miss work and buy groceries. And yet, we are arguing about "core values" that would remove the right to marry from two consenting adults. These presidential candidates are reprehensible.


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