March 24, 2018

Florida Passes Bill Prohibiting Required Paid Employee Sick Leave

In a blow to food safety in restaurants, Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott signed HB 655 that takes effect July 1, 2013. The law bans local governments from requiring that companies give employees paid sick time. As Food Poisoning Bulletin has told you before, lack of paid sick leave can cause food poisoning outbreaks. While states do have laws requiring that sick employees do not handle food, many workers will come to work anyway because they need the money.

Food Poisoning IBDRestaurant employees are usually paid low wages and receive almost no benefits. And a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that ill food handlers are to blame for most norovirus outbreaks in this country and 65% of the food poisoning outbreaks at restaurants. In just the last month, foodborne illness outbreaks associated with restaurants have occurred in six states.

In the Mulvaney’s outbreak in Sacramento, 138 people were sickened by norovirus; at least six food service workers reported that they were ill. An employee with Hepatitis A at 800 Degrees Three Fires Restaurant in Fort Wayne, Indiana caused a public health warning; customers at that restaurant had to get vaccinations. And sick workers may have played a role in the Salmonella outbreak at the Firefly restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Almost 90% of restaurant workers don’t have any paid sick leave, and 66% say they have cooked, prepared, and served food while they were sick. The CDC’s Environmental Health Specialists Network is conducting studies about this issue. One of their studies found that 20% of food workers said they worked at least one shift in the past year while experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, which are classic signs of food poisoning.



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