UnderCover Waitress: Tuberculosis at Hooters

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Tuberculosis at Hooters

Bombshell dropped in my email this morning.

We all know how much I despise Hooters and the like, but I believe this could have happened at any restaurant that shows disdain for its "lower level" employees and the public at large. In this case, however, it happened at Hooters in Inn Harbor, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Nineteen year old Jheri Stratton caught tuberculosis ("TB") from her manager at the Hooters restaurant in which she worked as a waitress ("Hooters Girl.") There are so many angles to discuss in this story that my fingers are frozen; I don't know where to begin. A good start is to say that I am truly sorry for Ms. Stratton's pain and suffering.

The Baltimore Sun reports the young woman's name, medical, and legal situation details. The manager who infected her and numerous other waitresses is allowed to remain anonymous. Why is his anonymity important but Ms. Stratton's is not?

Ms. Stratton was monitored by the health department to ensure she took her medication as directed, as if she were a child. Remember this: the health department does this with TB cases because of how debilitating and contagious the disease is. 


We are not told if the health department watched the manager take his medication, or if he was reprimanded at work, fired, or anything else. His anonymity is protected. I dare say this is because he is a grown man, and Ms. Stratton is looked down upon by the Hooters industry as an expendable, replaceable set of boobs, as opposed to a human being.

Originally, Hooters instructed Ms. Stratton that her disease was "not serious" and forbade her to inform her family and friends how she contracted it. They didn't say "don't tell them you are sick." They said, "don't blame us."

That, in itself, is heinous. All they cared about was not alerting the public to TB germs present in a restaurant. Because they might lose some business from, for example, people with already compromised respiratory systems.

Manager Was Working Sick

It is industry standard that waitresses do not have job benefits. That means no health care and no sick days. That means Ms. Stratton had no benefits to fall back on when she contracted TB from a manager at work.

According to the Hooters website, managers do have benefits:


"All full time management employees in restaurants served by R.M.D. Corp have an opportunity to participate in a broad range of group benefit programs. Hooters' total compensation program includes pay and benefits that respond to individual employee needs.


Our competitive insurance program includes the following benefits:
• Major Medical
• Life Insurance, including Accidental Death and Dismemberment
• Short-term and Long-term Disability
• Dental
• Vision Exam Reimbursement


In addition to the insurance program, Hooters offers the following benefits to full time managers:
• Paid Vacation
• Retirement Savings Program
• Meal Program
• Industry Certifications
• Quarterly Bonus Incentives
• Cash and Prize Incentives for Territory-wide Promotions
• Casual Dress Attire
• Fun and Exciting Work Environment"


Why this manager would work while sick with TB is beyond me. If he came down with symptoms, he had medical insurance and could go see a doctor. He would be diagnosed, treated, and be able to take time off from work. Instead, he works and gets other people sick.

Many waitresses that this unnamed manager infected were diagnosed with latent tuberculosis. This means that the disease is in their bodies, but they do not have any symptoms. According to the Virginia Department of Health, latent tuberculosis is not contagious. Therefore, the manager was actively sick when he infected other people at work. In order to infect other people, he had to be suffering with symptoms and know he was sick. And yet, he chose to work around other people's food.

Is TB Serious?

The city of Baltimore, Maryland is taking the position that because, according to the Baltimore Department of Health, the public was not at risk for contracting the disease, there is no reason to shut down the restaurant, even temporarily.

WTF? I want to know who paid them.

When people infected with TB cough, laugh, sing, etc., they release TB bacteria into the air. When other people breathe in the bacteria, they contract TB.

"Prolonged exposure" is required to catch tuberculosis, but nobody defines "prolonged exposure" per the Baltimore Sun. If a sick waitress sits with you for a half hour at your table, is that prolonged enough? Or would she have to sit for an entire hour for you to be at risk? If you eat lunch every day at the same Hooters, does that count as "prolonged exposure?"

It is accurate that an infected person is most likely to infect people they live and work with. Hence, "prolonged exposure." It is not impossible to infect someone else in a short period of time. I had to be tested for TB, many years ago, after being exposed to somebody for an hour. I didn't have TB, but they tested me to make sure.

Exposure to TB in a poorly ventilated area is more likely to result in getting the disease. So, if you are sitting in the back of the restaurant you are more likely to get sick than if you are sitting near the door or open windows.

You'd think they would at least have shut the restaurant for a day or two to air it out. You'd be wrong.

Maybe because Ms. Stratton's case of TB was bad enough to cause permanent damage to her liver,  or maybe because she hired a worker's compensation lawyer to help her, the fact that she contracted TB at Hooters came out and eventually Hooters cooperated with the Health Department. The Baltimore Sun gives them credit for "cooperating fully."

I hate it when companies try to cover up problems, and then when they get caught the news only reports on how they cooperated. They cooperated after getting caught red-handed. It's like claiming that you never steal cookies, and when somebody takes your picture with your hand in the cookie jar, you choose to "cooperate."

Ms. Stratton was lied to: she was told by some self-appointed medical genius at Hooters that TB wasn't "serious." Then she was told she couldn't tell people where she got sick. Hooters put the people Ms. Stratton lives with in danger by playing down the dangerous nature of her communicable disease.

Worker's Compensation

Ms. Stratton was fired two days after she filed her worker's compensation claim. It seems that when your body is suffering from active TB, it is hard to keep up with the pace in a busy restaurant. According to Ms. Stratton per the Baltimore Sun,

"managers expressed frustration with her inability to work at a normal pace and co-workers said they noticed she had lost significant weight and couldn't eat."  


Well, she did have TB, after all.

In general, waitresses are expendable. It is worse in breastaurants such as Hooters in which men get to play up their privileged status and treat women as second class citizens. It is easier to throw away something that is less than equal.

In the end, Ms. Stratton was awarded worker's compensation benefits for lost wages and medical expenses with the help of her  lawyer. Her medical benefits include lifetime care for problems caused by getting TB at work from a manager who was actively sick with TB. Unfortunately, I expect she will need that lifetime medical care. And she is only nineteen years old. Great going, Hooters.

I wish Ms. Stratton well.




15 comments :

  1. I worked with Jheri at this location. I know for sure that one of the Hooter girls who tested positive worked only 1 day a week. Prolonged exposure? They're just trying to make sure the public diesn't freak out. It's a real shame. What you said was so true about treating the girls as if they are expendable.

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    1. The woman who worked one day per week had to breathe in the TB bacteria only once to become infected. It is not cumulative; only being around the sick person one day per week is (obviously) not a protection.

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  2. How can her medical info, which is supposed to be protected by HIPPA, be all over, and the manger is not named? WTH? I am so disgusted!

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    1. Hi Corina,

      It is possible that Jheri Stratton gave permission for her information to be made public, but I do not know that. She is only nineteen and younger people are more likely to be subjected to pressure. However, I am glad to say she has a lawyer, who is savvy to the system, representing her interests now. It is also possible that she and her lawyer decided that letting the public know what was happening was a good thing to do.

      I felt the double-standard was worth pointing out because of how common it is. Ms. Stratton is brave if she made the choice to allow such info. to be made public: she is being made fun of in some online places. Hooters is cowardly, remember, they told her to keep where she got sick a secret.

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  3. Yea, and they tried to tell her TB isn't serious! Disgusting! Especially considering how much better managers have it comppred to the servers, and let's face it, if it weren't for the servers, the managers wouldn't even have a job!

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    1. "if it weren't for servers, managers wouldn't even have a job!"
      Lol -- excellent point! :)

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  4. JOHN AND TRAVIS WAS THE MANGERS DOWN DERE THEY DIRTY 4 THAT

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  5. I WAS THERE WORKING WIT THEN THEY ALWAYS WAS SICK THAT'S WHY I HAD TO LEAVE THEM JOHN WAS THE MAIN ONE TRAVIS WAS ALWAYS SICK COUGHING ON PPL JOHN A DIRTY MANAGER REALLY I KNO

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  6. I WORKED WIT JERI N SHE WAS COOL JOHN N TRAVIS DIDN'T EVEN LIKE BLACK GIRLS THATS WHY IT WAS MORE WHITE THEN BLACK THEY WAS THE ONES WHO WAS SICK CUZ OF HIM THE HEATH DEPARTMENT NEED TO CLOSE THAT HOOTERS DOWN THEY SELL OLD CHICKEN THEY DON'T CLEAN UP RIGHT N WHEN THEY KNO THE HEATH DEPARTMENT COMIN THEY COVER THINGS UP

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  7. i also worked at hooters downtown Baltimore for 10 years and that place use to be one of the safest most fun restaurants in the harbor they cared bout the staff and our well being we had the best managers around that time( DREW,DANA AND JOSHUA ) but as time went by those same three managers all found careers else where its wasnt until the arrival of john spence that things seemed to go down hill, such as girls that medical conditions were treated poorly girls that were pregnant wasn't allowed the proper break time to eat and when they did eat it was rushed it was to the point that if you went to school and you were working there he made you choose between the two you couldn't do both and thats just some of it but then comes along travis and that the manager that had tuberculosis and for a month still worked around the customers the staff the food and this is without being seen by doctor but the crazy thing is this is something that could have killed jheri and they down played it some of the girls have kids if someone would have died from this how would they have treated it....when i was employed there its times where the food was clearly out dated and we were told by john spence to cook it i called the health department several times anonymous but it was almost like john knew when they were comin and he got rid of the bad food before they got there....i could go on and on about the things that ended up being wrong with that place but i dont have that much time if you like you an go to facebook/hooters of baltimore send a friend request or post a comment im pretty sure everyone on there has something to say about this situation or the place it self i just wouldn't recommend eating there to no one and just so you know john has given an all you can drink beer card to alex shook meaning he can drink beer for 6 months free so he brings in a group of his friends they all drink for free i know corporate dont know bout that but if you have further questions you can call down there 410 244 0367 at which time they will prolly beat around the bush with answers

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    1. My daughter also worked there. She was diagnosed with cancer and had to have radiation treatments so Hooters fired her just like they did to Jeri. She just got out of the hospital for tuberculosis. Watch your back John Spence I'm coming to see you on a dark night

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    3. ahahaaaa yessssss "Watch your back John Spence I'm coming to see you on a dark night" i cudnt have sed it better

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  8. this guy john spence.....honestly cant see how hes still employed! he sickens me and its been years

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