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Restaurant Workers Don't Stay Home When Sick, Study Finds

From Kim Severson, NY Times: More than 60 percent of restaurant employees choose to show up for work instead of staying home when they’re sick because they have no insurance and no paid sick time, according to a report issued today by a restaurant workers’ advocacy group.

The report, called “Serving While Sick,” is based on more than 4,000 surveys and hundreds of interviews with employers and employees. It is intended to put pressure on the restaurant industry to improve conditions for its workers. The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United is one of two groups presenting the report at a Congressional briefing today.

Restaurant workers from eight states and cities, including New York, were asked about working conditions and their health. The workers are roughly divided in thirds among expensive, family-style and quick serve restaurants. Among the report’s findings:

— 38 percent of workers said they had done something while working that put their safety at risk;
— 36 percent said their kitchens sometimes get so hot that conditions are unsafe;
— almost half said they had been either cut or burned on the job;
— almost 90 percent don’t get health insurance through their employers.

The Restaurant Opportunities Center was founded after Sept. 11 to help unemployed restaurant workers. Since then, it has been involved in lawsuits charging widespread violations of wage and hour laws in the New York restaurant industry as well as bringing charges of racial discrimination against the chef Daniel Boulud. The New York group has also been sued by former members over an ill-fated attempt to start a restaurant to benefit people who once worked in at Windows on the World.

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