Story at a glance
- Chipotle workers in New York are walking out on the job and protesting the company for allegedly violating sick leave laws.
- There are currently more than 100 reported cases of coronavirus in New York, and the CDC is cautioning sick workers to stay home.
- Protesting employees say they have to choose between keeping their job and coming to work sick.
Chipotle workers in New York say they have to choose between keeping their job and coming in sick amid a coronavirus outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is telling companies to actively encourage sick employees to stay home to limit the spread of COVID-19 amid an outbreak. But Jeremy Pereyra, a Chipotle employee, told Gothamist that he was written up after calling in sick with flu-like symptoms and a doctor's note.
"They want us to shut up," he told Gothamist. "They want us to stop. But we're not going to stop until things get better."
Pereyra didn’t go in to work for his 7 a.m. shift at the Sixth Avenue and 56th Street location where he’s worked for about two years. He told Gothamist he wasn’t able to give a required two-hour notice because no one arrives at the store until at least 6 a.m.
"My hands are tied at that point," Pereyra told Gothamist. "I'm going to get written up regardless."
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On Twitter, property services union 32BJ SEIU is tweeting about the issue under the hashtag "Do Better Chipotle.”
The CDC is telling people to stay home while they are sick – why won’t Chipotle do the same? Sick workers should not be preparing food! These workers are speaking up: They shouldn’t be afraid they will be fired if they take a sick day! #DoBetterChipotle pic.twitter.com/LBb48NYRLa— 32BJ SEIU (@32BJSEIU) March 4, 2020
The union said there have been at least five walkouts at Chipotle locations across the city since March 4. Pereyra and a coworker joined in on March 6, protesting with about 40 other employees and supporters along Sixth Avenue.
Hey Chipotle: We take coronavirus seriously. Do you? Thank you @MaketheRoadNY, @ABetterBalance, @NYCOSH, @CSSNYorg, @BenKallos and @MarkLevineNYC for standing with workers! #DoBetterChipotle pic.twitter.com/UjFngwXIq5— 32BJ SEIU (@32BJSEIU) March 6, 2020
New York City requires companies to give workers five days of sick year accrued over time. Chipotle's chief reputation officer Laurie Schalow said in a statement to Gothamist that the company is fully compliant with the Sick and Safe Leave Act.
"Employees that are not feeling well are required to stay home and we'll welcome them back when they are symptom free," Schalow told Gothamist. "Chipotle’s best-in-class benefits offering includes three paid sick days starting on the first day of employment so there is no accrual period, which is beyond the standard practice for most industries."
But what happens when they run out? Or face consequences as Pereyra did? Research shows workers are likely to show up to work sick when the alternative is not getting paid. The CDC found that 12 percent of food workers worked when they were sick with vomiting or diarrhea on two or more shifts in the last year. When it comes to a disease as contagious as coronavirus, the thought of a food chain such as Chipotle allowing potential carriers to work and handle your food is concerning.
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