As local and state governments demand restaurant closures and transitions to takeout amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation’s chain restaurants, grocery stores, and delivery services are on the frontline of providing the country with food. These also happen to be the businesses with some of the worst paid sick leave policies (if they have paid sick leave at all); an emergency coronavirus relief bill recently passed by Congress only extends guaranteed sick leave to those working for companies that employ under 500 people, ruling out employees of large chains. Some national chains have implemented paid sick leave policies voluntarily, while others — well — have not, doing what the New York Times bluntly called out as “putting profits ahead of public health.”
Here, Eater will keep a running list of which chain restaurants, grocers, and delivery services are putting public health first by instituting paid sick leave amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the nuances (good and bad) therein. We will also list which chains are still refusing paid sick leave for their employees, despite it being a moral and ethical imperative.
Chains with paid sick leave during COVID-19
McDonald’s: The fast food behemoth announced it would be providing 14 paid-leave days to employees that require quarantine, but only those who work at the company’s corporate-owned stores. McDonald’s says over 90 percent of its stores worldwide are operated by franchisees, and notes that franchisees, while required to adhere to state and local sick leave laws, are considered independent business owners. The McDonald’s Corporation can recommend sick leave policies to its franchisees, but — according to the company — the franchisees do not have to implement them.
Domino’s: In a statement, CEO Ritch Allison says the company “will be expanding paid leave for full- and part-time hourly employees of our company-owned stores and supply chain centers during this outbreak.” However, Domino’s says “94 percent of Domino’s stores in the U.S. are franchise-owned,” so the policy will cover very few of its employees.
Yum Brands: KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut “will continue to enforce their already strict procedures around illness reporting for restaurant team members,” and are requiring sick employees to self-quarantine. The company will also be paying any employee required to self-quarantine for their regularly scheduled hours — but only if they are employees of a corporate-owned restaurant, not a franchise. However, Yum Brands said it would encourage “our franchise partners to take a similar people-first approach.”
Whole Foods: Whole Foods announced that all team members “diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine will receive up to two weeks of pay.” Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, has also contributed an extra $1.6 million — essentially the change CEO Jeff Bezos has lost behind the couch — to the Team Member Emergency Fund.
Starbucks: Starbucks already offers its baristas sick leave. Now, the cafe chain is extending its “catastrophe pay” program to those employees effected by the pandemic, and will offer an additional 14 days of paid leave to anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, anyone with prolonged contact with someone who has been diagnosed, or anyone at heightened risk of contracting it.
Darden Restaurants: The company, which owns Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and Capital Grille, among others, will be providing all hourly employees with up to seven paid sick days.
&pizza: The east coast pizza chain announced a comprehensive benefits package for all employees, which includes raising the hourly wage by $1, expanding sick leave to new staff and those caring for other family members, 14 paid sick days to staff diagnosed with — or in direct contact with someone diagnosed with — COVID-19, and free pizza to all employees. The company will also be providing free pizza to all “hospital workers, doctors, nurses, administrators, cleaning staff; all brace medical personal directly confronting this challenge.”
Chipotle: The company offers employees three paid sick days immediately upon employment, but employees are claiming the company has penalized them for calling in sick.
Trader Joe’s: The company has amended its sick leave policy to allow sick workers to be reimbursed for their time off if they feel they have symptoms of COVID-19. However, the Trader Joe’s union recently tweeted “ It is not enough to receive PTO only after being proven sick,” and is petitioning for hazard pay and guaranteed forced closure pay. “Workers who are typically scheduled a certain number of hours per week need to be guaranteed that if their store closes, they will continue receiving pay equal to their average scheduled wages,” writes the union.
Walmart: In a press release, Walmart says its associates should stay home if they are sick, and that “we will waive our attendance occurrence policy through the end of April.” If an employee is tested positive for the virus, they will receive up to two weeks of pay.
Wegmans: The grocery chain says it has “temporarily enhanced our short-term disability leave program to support our people impacted by COVID-19.”
Kroger: Though there is no blanket policy nationwide, some but not all Kroger employees have a form of paid sick leave. But in a memo from Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen, Kroger says it is enacting an Emergency Leave Guidelines policy, “allowing paid time off for Associates diagnosed with COVID-19 and for Associates placed under mandatory quarantine by their medical provider or by a public health authority because of COVID-19.” Employees will receive full pay for up to two weeks, and may apply for additional time off through short-term disability. Also, all employees seem to be getting a $25 gift card.
UPDATE: @kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the US, is still not providing all its workers with paid sick leave— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) March 17, 2020
Instead, everyone is getting a 25 DOLLAR Kroger gift cardhttps://t.co/19uNybttHl pic.twitter.com/DN17GcUmVY
Chains without paid sick leave
Dunkin’: Dunkin’ told Eater that “Dunkin’ restaurants are independently owned and operated by individual franchisees who are responsible for making their own business decisions such as the benefits they offer their employees, including sick leave.” Meaning that while some stores may choose to implement new sick leave policies, there is not one overarching corporate policy.
Grubhub: The delivery company does not provide drivers with paid sick leave, but did encourage them to stay home if they felt ill. Now, it has announced a “charitable fund” for drivers and deliverers, which “will allow diners to round up the change from every order and donate it to the Grubhub Community Relief Fund — with donations from Grubhub+ (and Seamless+) members matched by the company.”
Companies like Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, and Five Guys have all made public statements regarding sanitary protocols in their restaurants, and asking for sick employees to remain home, though they have not specified whether or not employees will be compensated. We have reached out to the aforementioned companies, and others, and will update as we get more information.