From the Seattle Times:

A cough. A sneeze. Perhaps a bead of sweat.

These are not ingredients that are supposed to come with a food order, but a national survey of restaurant workers released last week served up an unsavory possibility.

Two-thirds of 4,323 food servers and preparers surveyed admitted they had worked while sick in the past year.

The “Serving While Sick” report was commissioned by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a labor coalition for restaurant workers.

Research support was provided by the National Employment Law Project and the UCLA Center for the Study of Urban Poverty. Funding was provided by the Public Welfare Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The report pinpoints two reasons the workers don’t stay home:

  • Nearly nine in every 10 said they lacked paid sick days;
  • More than six in every 10 said they had no health insurance.

The survey sponsors say those numbers heighten public-health risks if the nation’s 10 million restaurant-industry employees, working in more than 568,000 food and drink establishments, spread disease.

The National Restaurant Association, representing restaurateurs, took issue with the report. It presents a “distorted image of the restaurant industry and its employees while pushing ROC’s agenda,” said Scott DeFife, executive vice president for policy and government affairs.

DeFife said restaurants must adhere to local food-code regulations that require ill employees to stay home and must follow federal food-handling, safety and sanitation standards.

But the report detailed instances in which that didn’t occur.

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