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How Much Could Sick Workers Cost Your Small Business?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on February 09, 2016 3:09 PM

Cold and flu season is in full swing. E. coli is popping up at restaurants nationwide. And now the Zika virus is out there wreaking havoc. You've already got a full plate as a small business owner, and now you have to worry about the impact that sick employees could have on your small business?

And it's not just lost presence and productivity -- sick workers can cost your small business millions in lost revenue as well. Here's how:

Employees Gone Viral

Chipotle, a company that knows the damage sick workers can do to a business's reputation, shuttered all of its locations yesterday so executives could reiterate the chain's food safety precautions for every employee. Chief among those guidelines was an order to stay at home if an employee feels sick.

The chain was hit was a series of health disasters last year: an E. coli outbreak in October and a norovirus outbreak in December. Chipotle's stock price has plummeted and sales are down 36 percent among locations that were open at the same time last year. Between the hits to the stock and sales, and the impending criminal investigation into the outbreak, Chipotle has lost millions, if not billions, in value and revenue.

Immunizing Your Workplace

Chipotle tied two of its negative incidents to norovirus, which is commonly caused by sick employees. Hence the instruction from Co-CEO Monty Moran: "If you're feeling sick, especially if you've vomited, whether at work or at home, you need to let your manager or your field leader know right away." But do small business owners have to leave it up to workers to police themselves?

As it turns out, there are some cases when you can force sick employees to go home. Employers are generally allowed to send a snick or sniffling worker home if they believe the sick employee is a health or safety risk. And OSHA requires employers to maintain a safe work environment, free of known health hazards. So not only may it be in your financial interest to keep a sick employee from working, it might be in your legal interest to do so as well.

If you have questions about how to implement a policy to protect employees and your small business, you can contact an experienced employment attorney near you.

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