Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sick Days for Restaurant Employees: DC Council a bit out of touch

Tuesday night a council candidate for DC, Patrick Mara (R) expressed his opposition on a city mandate to include restaurant workers (those specifically working for tips) in a law requiring them to be allowed paid sick leave by their employer.  Mara's primary point was how it could hurt the small business owners financially-he himself a former restaurant owner.

On the behalf of the tip population, please let me be the first to laugh and express how out of touch Mara is. 

First of all, the appeal of working for tips is that you can make a large chunk of money in a short amount of time.  This requires you to work fewer shifts.  Many servers have goals they would like to hit each shift in order to have a handle on their income, to budget accordingly, etc.  And it doesn't take very long to get an accurate idea of what to expect each shift.  If the server goes significantly over their goal, they may freely give away shifts for a few days to those who need them.  If they don't hit their goal, they will often 'pick-up' a shift from another server.  Yet, another appealing element when working for tips: the option to work more or less at certain times.

So, when someone is legitimately sick (i.e. not hungover) and need to call into work, this is often how the phone call goes with the manager:

Server: 'Hi (manager), this is (server).  I'm not feeling very well-(insert details of ailment here).  I need to stay home today.'

Manager: 'Let me get the schedule.  It looks like Rob, Bill, Betty, Jane and Gabby are off-you need to call them and see if they can cover for you.  Otherwise, you need to come in.'

Server: 'Listen, I'm really not feeling well, I'm (getting sick) every 10 minutes.  Can you call them for me?'

Manager: 'You're not the only one thats called in sick today-one of the kitchen guys called in and I have to have the liquor order done by 10 before I run to the bank.  Its your responsibility to cover your shifts!'

Server: 'Ok, I'll see what I can do.'

Then the sick server has to call each person, PRAY they pick up (which as a server, you know why you're getting called at 9am by another server) and beg/bribe (usually with cash) them to go in for you.

If no one picks up or agrees to work, then you have little choice, but to go into work and pray you puke all over the manager's shiny shoes.

Yes, as a server having paid sick days would be nice, but we don't care if we're missing out on a little money-we can make it up by picking up a shift.  Mara is totally out of touch-whatever sick time the restaurant would pay isn't going to come close to what the server could make on their own.  What servers want is the freedom to call in sick without the hassle of finding a replacement and the threat of losing their job.  Period.

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