Chipotle Wants Sick Employees to Verify with a Nurse. This is a Very Pro-Employee Move. Here’s Why

Chipotle made headlines with its policy requiring (or suggesting) that sick employees call a nurse to verify that they are actually sick and not just hungover.

CEO Brian Niccol said:

“We have nurses on call, so that if you say, ‘Hey, I’ve been sick,’ you get the call into the nurse. The nurse validates that it’s not a hangover — you’re really sick — and then we pay for the day off to get healthy again.”

It makes sense that a company with a history of e. Coli problems would want healthy people on staff, and they would want stomach shy customers to know that only healthy people will be serving them. But it sounds a bit like over-reach and that they don’t trust their employees to know when they are genuinely sick.

In fact, my Inc. colleague, Jeff Haden, doesn’t like the policy at all. Haden, who I agree with most of the time, writes:

To keep reading, click here: Chipotle Wants Sick Employees to Verify with a Nurse. This is a Very Pro-Employee Move. Here’s Why

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9 thoughts on “Chipotle Wants Sick Employees to Verify with a Nurse. This is a Very Pro-Employee Move. Here’s Why

  1. This is a very smart idea by Chiplote especially after having problems with e-Coli food safety issues, which were probably caused by staff not following the food safety precautions, especially the handwashing. Having worked in handling both raw and cooked food products, I know that you have to be extra careful in your sanitation procedures. I was one of the few department managers in my specific store who achieved over 90% for every sanitation inspection, so I know you don’t want sick people working with food.
    This option by Chiplote, which appears to be at no cost to the employees, sounds very reasonable and only requires making the phone calls. Okay if this isn’t done as a video phone call, there may be some fraudulent claims by the employees who just didn’t want to work that day, but it does provide documentation of sorts, which is helpful for both employees and Chiplote. The people who are complaining that this is an invasion of privacy or may cause them to be written up, aren’t looking at the effect of not reporting sickness and exposure to others. Chiplote is doing the right thing here.

  2. At my previous employer the salaried staff didn’t have a sick bank/sick days. If you were sick you were to stay home and didn’t have to use vacation. There were still offenders of course, but it cut back severely on the staff who came into the office sick.

  3. I disagree that this is a pro-employee move. If the call to the nurse was voluntary — for employees who WANT to talk it over with a medical professional — that would be pro-employee. But, as a measure to double-check employee reports that they are too ill to come into work — in other words, not trusting ones own employees — it stinks. People know whether or not they are able to put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay — whether their incapacity is due to a hangover or some other more socially-acceptable reason — and if you can’t trust your employees to be honest about that basic fact, you need to go ahead and replace them anyway.

    1. As someone who has worked in fast food, if you give 3 days of sick time then a portion of employees will fake sick and use them up in a month. You have some dedicate employees who will be responsible and save their sick days until they are really sick, but we are talking about a business where many employees are teenagers and still learning professional norms. Having someone call in to a nurse hotline is a simple level of accountability that will guide the staff to use their time for real sickness and not for float trips.
      I’m just glad that they put steps in place for the manager to find a replacement when someone is sick instead of putting the burden on the sick employee. Its unbelievable that sick employees are routinely expected to find their own replacement or show up sick and work.

  4. At my last employer, managers strongly hinted that anyone who stayed home a day without notice was malingering, and the IT bro culture sneered at anyone not tough enough to come in no matter how bad they felt. So in flu season and stomach bug outbreaks, people came in sick and viruses had a field day. We had sick leave but couldn’t really use it. I would have loved getting a day off when I was sick and having my coworkers stay away when they were contagious. The dial-a-nurse line is brilliant.

  5. Chipotle is not trying to keep sick workers at home when they are ill. Chipotle wants to decide whether employees who call in sick are really too sick to work. That is completely different from Evil HR Lady’s interpretation.

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