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Chipotle Checks If Employees Who Call in Sick Aren’t Just Hungover, Says CEO

Plus, nearly 700,000 people will lose access to food stamps under the Trump administration, and more news to start your day

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Chipotle workers scooping food onto tortillas at the counter.
Chipotle’s paid sick policy involves a wellness check with a nurse to ensure that employees are actually ill.
Photo: rblfmr/Shutterstock

Chipotle employees receive wellness checks with nurses when calling in sick

Have to call in sick at Chipotle? Apparently, that can land you a call from a nurse to check you don’t just have a “hangover,” according to the burrito chain’s CEO.

“We have nurses on call, so that if you say, ‘Hey, I’ve been sick,’ you get the call into the nurse,” Brian Niccol revealed at a conference on Wednesday, as reported by Insider. “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.”

The chain highlighted this policy as part of its improved food-safety measures, implemented to help prevent the kind of foodborne illness outbreaks that have tainted the brand’s reputation for years (an internal investigation found that a norovirus outbreak in Virginia in 2017 was the result of a sick employee whose manager failed to enforce the sick policy).

“We have a very different food-safety culture than we did two years ago,” Niccol said, per Insider. “Nobody gets to the back of the restaurant without going through a wellness check.”

You have to give Chipotle some credit for even offering paid sick leave, compared to competitors — as surmised from Reddit posts and job-posting sites like Indeed, the chain’s hourly workers get 24 hours, or three days, of paid sick time, compared to the more typical fast food norm of sick workers having to find colleagues to cover their shifts. But the possibility of receiving a wellness check before you can get a day off, as Niccol seems to suggest, seems fairly draconian, and the CEO suggesting that workers would play hooky due to hangovers comes off as callous.

Besides, calling in sick because you’re hungover isn’t so outlandish! Better they stay home and heal than puke in the guacamole.

Correction: Friday, December 6, 10:14 p.m.: This post and headline have been updated to reflect a statement from Chipotle’s vice president of safety clarifying the policy of nurse wellness checks, which the chain says applies to employees “if they are experiencing certain serious symptoms”:

When an employee reports certain symptoms to their manager, the clinical nurse team at Zero Hour Health will follow up with those employees to understand their illness. Not all ill employees talk to a nurse, but all Chipotle employees receive paid sick leave from their first day of employment to use when they are not feeling well.

The chain declined to comment on Niccol’s remark that “nurses validate that [an illness] is not a hangover.”

And in other news…

  • Nearly 700,000 recipients of food stamps will lose access to the SNAP program thanks to the Trump administration’s new USDA work requirements. [NBC News]
  • A Long Island-based seafood processor pleaded guilty to selling more than $1 million worth of squid mislabeled as the more expensive octopus. [New Food Economy]
  • Following Papa John’s founder John Schnatter’s claim that the chain’s pizza has gotten worse since he was ousted as CEO (and the revelation that Schnatter has eaten “40 pizzas in the last 30 days”), Papa John’s current CEO clarified that the company has not changed its pizza recipe. [Insider]
  • Some of the fastest-growing brands in 2019 are food brands and delivery services, according to a survey-based report by research data company Morning Consult. Among the top five are DoorDash, White Claw, Postmates, and Impossible Foods. [Morning Consult]
  • How much would you pay for this artwork that consists of a banana duct-taped to the wall? The asking price is $120,000 at Art Basel — and two editions have already been sold. Art!!! [Artnet News]
  • KFC has brought back its holiday firelog, for anyone who wants to fill their room with the smoky scent of fried chicken. [Hypebeast]
  • Ben Shapiro trying to order a pizza gets the “Daily Shouts” treatment. [The New Yorker]
  • I love Hantama-kun the half-a-boiled-egg mascot:

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