Red Lobster staff say they work when they're ill because of a lack of paid sick leave and pressure from managers, according to report
Red Lobsterstaff say they work while ill, Popular Information and More Perfect Union reported.
- They say it's down to a lack of paid sick leave and pressure from managers.
Current and former staff at some Red Lobster restaurants say they've worked while they're ill during the COVID-19 epidemic – in some cases because of a lack of paid sick leave or because they were unable to meet management requests to find cover, according to a report by Popular Information and More Perfect Union.
James Swartz, a former Red Lobster bartender in Pennsylvania, said he told management he wasn't coming to work after he developed COVID-19 symptoms. He said that management told him he'd have to either work or find cover for the shift, otherwise he'd get written up.
Swartz said that ultimately he stayed at home for two weeks but had no paid time off.
He isn't alone – 12% of Red Lobster staff said they had access to paid sick leave, according to a fall 2021 survey by Harvard University's Shift Project, which collects data on work scheduling for hourly-paid service workers in the US. Popular Information and More Perfect Union shared data from the survey.
Having no paid sick leave has huge effects on the company's staff. Sixty-three percent of Red Lobster workers who said they've been sick in the past month said in the survey that they'd worked while sick. Of that group, two-thirds said it was because they didn't have paid sick leave and needed the income.
"If we don't work we don't get paid," one anonymous Red Lobster worker told the Shift Project. "I worry that co-workers who have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 family member would still come to work."
Average hourly income for Red Lobster staff in 2021 was $13 an hour, including tips, Popular Information and More Perfect Union reported. In Shift Project's fall survey, 29% of Red Lobster employees said they'd struggled to pay essential bills over the past month.
"We live paycheck to paycheck," the employee said. "We can't sit at home without pay."
"Managers let employees work sick and do not send them home," another Red Lobster worker told the Shift Project. "Managers also won't let an employee call out sick, they insist they come in unless they find a replacement."
As well as a lack of access to paid sick leave, survey respondents cited being unable to find cover for their shift, worries about getting in trouble, and pressure from supervisors as reasons for showing up to work while they were ill.
The publications reported the restaurant chain directs staff who have to take unpaid sick leave to the RL Cares Employee Emergency Assistance Fund. This is funded by the staff, rather than the company itself: "Our employees voluntarily donate to the fund," Red Lobster says.
Red Lobster didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment, but a spokesperson told Popular Information and More Perfect Union: "Red Lobster's paid time off policies are consistent with our industry, in which the vast majority of our workforce are hourly employees with flexible scheduling options. There are some states that have paid sick leave requirements, and where that is the case, we follow the law and honor and pay it.
Do you work at Red Lobster? Got a story? Contact this report at email@example.com.
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