Subway Forces Violently Sick Employee to Keep Working, Then Fires Her

In Depth

A Freeport, Texas Subway employee so ill she had to be rushed to the hospital was forced to keep working by her manager — then the restaurant fired her when someone else called an ambulance.

Elizabeth Taft apparently had a stomach virus so severe that she was “going back and forth to the bathroom” and was “drenched in sweat” during her shift at Subway, reports Click2Houston. When she approached her manager about the fact that she was so ill she could barely function and was likely to make customers sick, the woman quite reasonably* replied “I don’t care. Get back on the line.” The manager also told her to “just switch shirts” to hide the vomit stains.

When Taft finally got a chance to take a break, she went outside and more or less passed out on the lawn, whereupon an employee at the Pizza Hut next door found her and called an ambulance. After being taken to the hospital, Taft was fired — her bosses claim for “poor performance and insubordination,” a big enough crock of shit that it really needs to be upgraded to a cauldron of shit. There are pictures of Taft nearly passed-out on the lawn (taken by the Pizza Hut employee and posted to social media), and we know for a fact she was sick since she has the hospital trip and a doctor’s note to prove it. There’s no getting around this on the restaurant’s part by claiming it was a hoax, so obviously they have to try to discredit Taft, proving the adage that if corporations are people, they are sociopaths.

I know a lot of commenters who have no experience in the industry are going to immediately say, “why did she come in? It’s her fault for working sick!” Two things there: 1) you’re an asshole, and 2) because she had to. There is no such thing as paid sick leave for food service workers, so if you want to be able to pay the rent, you have to work through whatever illness you’re dealing with. That might seem reasonable to you (even though it isn’t, unless you’re an asshole), but there’s another side to that same coin — there are places where any call-out, even without a prior history, will result in your immediate termination. Such was the case here: when Taft was asked by Click2Houston why she didn’t make the decision to go home, her answer was “because I knew if I left work I’d have lost my job.”

Restaurants and other businesses are technically allowed to fire workers for missing time due to medical issues in most districts due to unbelievably shoddy legal protections for sick workers.** My very first serving job (Plato’s Diner in College Park, MD, for those who are curious) was like that: you were literally not allowed to call out of work for any reason, ever. That was their official stated policy, and it was not considered a labor violation. It didn’t matter how likely you were to spread your illness to your customers — you had to show up, come hell or high water. Some jobs won’t even let you get a co-worker to work for you if you’re sick, at least if your manager is a power-mad lunatic like one Blockbuster manager I worked for — and workers have absolutely no recourse.

Every health department in America is adamant about the fact that sick workers should not be handling food. That’s basic common sense; as Taft points out, even though she was wearing gloves, “it’s a public health issue.” But until that policy is enforced in such a way as to prevent worker abuse, its existence isn’t going to matter.

This is what happens when we pretend food service workers are sub-human and essentially refuse to regulate the industry’s labor practices (and don’t enforce what regulations do exist). This is what happens when there aren’t laws in place to stop clear abuses by sociopathically callous managers. This is the prison our “wealth = worth” philosophy has built for us; abuses like this are allowed to happen because we don’t consider the working poor and middle class worthy of legal protection or basic human decency.

While there’s plenty of talk about raising the minimum wage (and there should be), we should probably also spare some attention for laws that prevent abuses like this from happening.


** If you don’t have a doctor’s note, you’re basically screwed — quite a comfort to the thousands of Americans living without health insurance who can’t afford a trip to the doctor for anything that isn’t life-threatening. But, y’know, it’s obvious that we have the greatest health care system in the world and all, as long as you lack a basic understanding of the meaning of any of the words in that statement.

The only flip-side to this is that if a place does fire you after you suffer a medical issue, they’re rightly fucked if they try to fight an unemployment claim in most states. This one I know from experience. Still, since my weekly unemployment check was $131, that’s cold comfort.

Image via Getty.

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