Last week news broke
that Chipotle had closed a restaurant in Sterling, Virginia, following multiple reports of customers getting sick after eating there. The news caused Chipotle’s stock to fall.
While food-poisoning expert Bill Marler told Business Insider that it seemed the chain was likely just unlucky, some employees are saying that a lax sick-leave policy that forces workers to prepare food while “dripping snot” or feeling ready to vomit is to blame.
Two Chipotle employees told CNBC that they had been forced by managers to work while ill. Norovirus, the disease that has been linked to Chipotle’s most recent food poisoning outbreak, is often spread by an infected person handling food.
“Two weeks ago [I] came to work, felt like I was going to puke, just felt awful,” one worker told CNBC via email. “One of my managers told me if I don’t find someone to cover my shift, I’m going to have to stay. Mind you, my position was on line working with food.”
Another self-identified Chipotle employee wrote on Reddit that they were told their job was in jeopardy if they did not come to work, despite their illness.
“Isn’t it against company policy to work with a fever anyway?” the user wrote. “Today I was told I was not allowed to blow my nose during peak for about an hour and a half. If I’m dripping snot, shouldn’t that constitute too sick to work with food anyway?”
Other Reddit users have noted other instances of managers encouraging workers to forego the chain’s food safety regulations, which were updated after Chipotle’s 2015 E. coli outbreak.
“On nights where we were super busy my GM has had me just fill in correct temps,” or lie about food temperatures on food safety sheets to save time, one Reddit user wrote two months ago. “I feel uncomfortable doing this but don’t know what to do.”
“We have policies that preclude people from coming to work sick, and are one of few restaurant companies that provides paid sick days for our employees (including hourly employees),” Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold told CNBC in an email.
Chipotle is reporting its quarterly earnings on Tuesday after the market closes.