This Restaurant Manager Does Not Care That You’re Sick

Today’s post is brought to you by a restaurant manager who has had it with employees who have the audacity to get sick and need a day off. The above screenshot, which was shared by someone who shall remain nameless, came from a private Facebook group for a restaurant. Manager Heather has decreed that if you miss a shift because you are ill, that shift will be permanently removed from your schedule. No matter that you may have worked every Friday night for eight months; if you get sick one Thursday evening and cannot make it to work the next day, she thinks that means the shift will never ever be needed by that employee again. She also requires that you go see a doctor.

When can restaurants understand that we are allowed to get sick? I’m not talking about someone who went out and did shots all night long and woke up with a hangover. I’m talking about honest to goodness sick, like runny nose, fever and coughing up big globs of split pea soup-looking phlegm. It happens because servers are human beings with immune systems. Until restaurants are fully staffed with robots and iPads kiosks, expect a server to get ill every once in a while. And since we aren’t a cable box or a laptop that can be unplugged to reboot, we have no choice but to suffer through the sickness for a day or so.

Also, telling us to go to the doctor every time we get sick is an unfair expectation. First off, what if we don’t have any insurance? A visit to the doctor without insurance isn’t exactly free. In fact, it’s fucking expensive because this country is overrun with greedy doctors and even greedier insurance companies that have jacked up the cost of a doctor visit so it lines the pockets of the already well-off. And for some people who do have insurance, maybe they don’t want to pay a $30 co-pay just for a nurse practitioner to tell them, “Yeah, you’ve got a cold. Nothing we can do about that, so just rest and drink plenty of fluids. Bye.” You’re better off spending that $30 at Rite-Aid for some NyQuil, Ricolas and a bottle of aspirin. Enough with the stupid “you must get a doctor’s note” bullshit. How about bosses just accept that we sometimes get sick and we need to stay home? Besides, would they rather we show up to work with a fever and a cough so we can infect everyone else at the restaurant too? Would that be better?

Heather also is “more than happy” to accept day off requests, so if you know you are going to be sick sometime in late February, make sure you let her know now so she can schedule you off. However, she can’t guarantee that you will get that day off either, so be sure to have a back up plan.

Restaurants need to respect their employees more. Most of us don’t want to miss shifts because we know we aren’t going to get paid for a sick day and we will just be making less money. If we need to call out because we have bronchitis or diarrhea or a sore throat, it would be nice if the manager said, “Take care of yourself. We will get this covered for you and just call us back tomorrow to let us know how you are feeling.” How wonderful would it be for a server if, when we were sick, we would be able to focus on getting better than having to worry about getting our shift covered? We can dream, can’t we?

I know that Heather will eventually see this and I don’t care. Maybe by seeing it written out so clearly, she will realize how callous and uncaring her Facebook post to her employees came across. It might not change anything, but it will let the servers at the restaurant know that they are not alone. Restaurant workers across the country are all dealing with their own version of Heather.

Heather, if you’re reading this I ask two things of you:

  1. Try to learn some fucking empathy.
  2. Try to learn some fucking punctuation.

I wait tables and bitch about it on my blog, The Bitchy Waiter.

28 thoughts on “This Restaurant Manager Does Not Care That You’re Sick

  1. I worked in a restaurant (as a second job) some 15 years ago. I was pregnant & had the flu and I STILL had to bring in a doctor’s note BEFORE I could miss a shift (& caught hell for it anyway). Because a snotting, coughing, feverish pregnant girl is EXACTLY who the customers wanted bussing their tables & washing their dishes…

    While I can understand the need for staff putting in requests in a timely manner, not all absences can be scheduled. And requiring sick staff to come in to the establishment knowing they are ill is just plain wrong (not to mention gross). I personally avoid my old job during cold & flu season because I know their practices. :/

  2. Wow – pretty amazing that kale juice is helping you combat some of your MS symptoms! I really hope it continues to help. My husband and I have been periodically juicing in the evenings instead of having a big meal. It’s fabulous!

  3. And with all the screen touching and communicable illnesses…. I had completely lost my voice, the manager doesn’t take texts, because the hostess couldn’t hear me, and kept hanging up, I had to come in to prove I was sick, and had no voice, and they wanted me to stay “just for the lunch rush.” It was like charades, only I had no energy and it was all I could do to remain upright and not seem sick.

  4. OK, not quite the same thing here but back when dinosaurs roamed the earth (late 1970’s) a good friend of mine worked fast food. She tried to call in sick but they told her to come in or get canned. She went in. The next day she went to the doctor and was diagnosed with mono. The restaurant had to close down for 2 days of cleaning and announce that one of their employees had an infectious disease in the newspaper. Good times!

  5. I have worked in restuarants for over 30 years as a busboy, bartender, waiter and manager for last 17 years. The schedule is a challenge in its self because you try so hard to co ordinate part time and full time employees. Students, moms, parental demands, other jobs that they have, vacations, personal requests on a daily basis and the changing environment in the restaurant based on demand! ! When time off is requested it is almost always given before posting the schedule. My job is to make sure the business I run is properly staffed….call in sick O.K. ( but you better be and not too often ). I only wish I had that option…….who would open the doors. My hostess couldn’t make it to work on a Saturday night because she had an appointment for a facial ! Two sides and many reasons why I don’t enable a disabled employee !

    1. It sounds as though you are implying you discriminate against employees with disabilities.

      That’s not the case though, right?

      Because not only is it illegal to do so, it’s immoral.

  6. I work at a restaurant where the manager does not accept a doctor’s note for being sick. We have “plagues” going around my place of business every few months. I just had the worst flu of my life because patient zero was afraid to go to the doctor. It’s ridiculous. What’s the solution? A server job is no different from any other job.

  7. We encourage our servers to NOT come in if they aren’t feeling well! No doctors note required. We actually monitor our employees schedules and when any of them have been putting in long hours for a couple of weeks, we ask them if they are feeling ok or if they are looking like they don’t feel well. We are a pretty tight-knit group and we really do care for all our employees ( I’m one of two owners). We know the toll long hours can take on people and want them to take care of themselves.

  8. I have to say i currently work at a place where last year i had laringitus and had to come in. Thats right…. Miming and whisper screaming our beer list at tables. I never take off but the whole staff was sick and because i only gave my boss 6hrs notice (????? Wtf) i had to come. Or i could stay home and never come back. Now…. That being said….. Shout out to the HOLIDAY SHOWCASE. omg it truly is a restaurant that treats its staff great. They have no problem with you taking as much time as u need to get better. You get a gift card to the mall every year as a thank you at chriatmas and if you need anything they are there for you. I still use them as a reference and they still answer and give a great referance (3yrs later). Way to go ho-sho. Treating servers like you care since the beginning of restaurants in Cheektowaga!!!!

  9. Ok, I see both sides here. I just moved to the wine rep side, after 28 years in restaurants. To make it a steadfast rule is crazy, as some people legitimately get sick, and don’t need to go to the doctor. But as a long time server, then a long time GM, I know damn well when someone is sick, and when they are being shady. If it happened a few times a year, I’d let them off with no doctor’s note, but if it became a regular occurrence (2, 3, or 4 times a month, in some cases) I’d need a note to come back to work. While there are some amazing people in the industry, we all know that there are the ones that ruin it for everyone. Either sleeping off a hangover, or at a concert or party that came up at the last minute, when they knew they couldn’t get there shift covered.

  10. What world do these managers live in that think that if you wake up sick on Monday morning that you can see your doctor the same day?

  11. I had to make plenty of schedules as a restaurant manager. The explicit rule I had was if you are sick- you better not come anywhere near my restaurant. Try to cover your shift, if you can’t me and the other manager would work. Because I do not want my entire staff or my customers to get sick. I very rarely had to actually cover someone- because another employee would fill in- because people like money. And if you were one of those that filled in for others all the time- I was much more likely to grant your time off requests or give you better shifts.

    If you have servers that take advantage of that- you have hired shitty people and calling off is not the only issue you have had with them.. That is on you as a manager to manage. Not punish someone who is sick.

    This is what drives me crazy about this industry. When I was a server I would much rather work a bit harder in a bigger section then have to work with someone who was sick…because it is gross and I would most likely end up helping that person and not get the tips.

  12. Please, with the f-bomb. Just. Not. Necessary. There are so many other adjectives that can effectively express your emotion.
    Not a criticism, I enjoy your blog. It is spot on with the things that happen in this crazy business! And, yes, there is a lot of colorful language used behind the scenes in a restaurant.
    But you could do without it, you are better than that.

  13. I am sorry but if you don’t get paid for a sick day then I shouldn’t have to pay for a doctor’s note. How can it be an unexcused absence when I don’t get paid for being sick and I don’t actually get paid by the restaurant and most of the time the people leaving the tips don’t always leave 20% much less 10%. Who wants a server bringing them food or handling a check with a fever, strep or who knows what else??

  14. Love your blog, have worked in restaurants for many years at all FOH positions. You’ve clearly never had to make a schedule. Your manager is spot on here. If servers can get out of a shift any time they want by playing the sick card, then they abuse that and the place gets short staffed on any given night.

    1. That’s why you hire and keep good, loyal staff who care about your job as well as theirs. I’ve been at my current place 8 months, only called out once, didn’t get a lick of crap from anyone, only a ton of “Get betters”. My last job? Forget about it. I was sick all the time there and could never get a day off without catching some kind of noise. AND I was always sick because, well, that’s what happens when you have employees work when they are ill; it just moves around the restaurant in waves. 😷😷😷

    2. But what do you do if you’re genuinely sick?

      If it’s viewed by a manager as a “card” to play, then what does the fevered and hacking employee do? You would prefer they come in and spread their germs around to staff and customers? That’s ridiculous.

      I’m saying your response is ridiculous with the experience of 20 plus years in the industry behind me, including management positions.

      I guess some folks really do sell their soul when they join management.

  15. The only part of her post I can agree with is that a schedule request is just that; a request. The likelihood that the request can be fulfilled for, say, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, is slim.

  16. The crazy thing about this is that: A. there are illnesses that you should not carry in to a public eating environment and B. this is why illness travels around the restaurant and lasts for months and months. I once worked in a restaurant where we passed a sinus infection around for an entire winter and half of spring. Ugh, ugh! oh, and: C. I would rather not be waited on by some one who presents all of the symptoms of the plague. Managers (and I was one) need to realize that shit happens. That’s the business and we have to roll with it. and one more: D. a little bit of power and a small mind are a very dangerous combo. Hope you fell better.

  17. I have managed restaurants on the front of the house side. I would rather not have an unhealthy person at work. It’s against health department standards, first of all. And, it puts my guests in jeopardy. Which in turn jeopardizes my establishment. If a person has a server that is obviously sick, and they themselves get sick within a few days, they probably aren’t coming back to see us any time soon. Maybe not ever. If the employee makes a habit of calling out, that’s another story. And, management’s fault for not squashing it sooner. You can’t discipline the whole staff for the mistakes of a few.

    1. I agree. As a manager, I cannot call out sick. I would rather let an hourly employee off for one night than let the entire staff get sick. Document and discipline the person with excessive absenteeism, don’t punish the entire team.

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