Chipotle enforces sick policy, reports no food safety issues since 2017

This week Brian Niccol, Chipotle's CEO, announced the result of a significant change to their food safety and worker health policies. Following the 2017 norovirus outbreak, the company established new policies that include better sanitization processes and more food safety training. It also instituted a sick leave policy that paid out their employees (typically hourly workers) when they were sick to ensure people aren't coming in to work despite being sick to earn their paychecks. It is a change that, quite frankly, more companies should institute to create a better work environment for their employees and to deliver a better experience for customers. Chipotle hasn't experienced a major food safety incident since 2017. Unfortunately, the benefits of the policy change were overlooked as, during the announcement, 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." Chipotle and Niccol got pilloried, accused of invading employees' privacy via a draconian policy. According to a statement after the comment:

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.

So, perhaps not as invasive as believed by the Twittersphere. Nevertheless, from PR positive to PR nightmare. Which is too bad really, considering Chipotle is doing right by their employee base including offering mental health and financial wellness benefits. Competitors would be smart to pay attention.


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