Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Panera Bread is trying to kill you

The Girl has worked at our local Panera since last August. In that time she's been sick a couple of times and they have given her an incredible hassle about missing her shifts. By hassle I mean demanding a doctor's note, making her find people to fill in for her missing shifts, and being generally furious about her being ill. When she had E-coli, and it was serious enough for her to miss several days, they were more worried that we would turn them in than how she was feeling. But she's 16 and businesses that hire teenagers are notoriously horrid to the kids, treating them like slave labor and firing them at will for the slightest infractions.

The Girl is the restaurant's longest running employee, so that should tell you something about how they manage the restaurant, especially in this economy. She's been there long enough to be recommended for management! How weird is that? In all the time she's worked there, she's been written up for being late once (serious traffic jam closed the road and we were stuck in it forever) and the manager that she has the most trouble with wrote her up for an accounting error that was the manager's fault. Once you're written up, it can't be taken back, according to the rotten manager.

She's a hard worker, she doesn't complain or have friends visit her at work, and the fact that she's made it 6 months there is a testimony to her dedication. She loves having the money. She really does. And she's willing to do just about anything to continue making the money, too.

While I was in the hospital she stayed with friends who were all brewing an illness. The baby ended up in the hospital with pneuonia and bronchitis, then her friend's mom got sick, and then her friend caught it. Last night the Girl came home from work at 11:30 dragging. She had a vicious headache, a fever, was coughing, and just starting to get sniffly. She went to bed and while asleep got a full-on case of something horrid. She woke up sick as a dog, runny nose, coughing non-stop, headache, muscle ache, and a 102 degree fever.

I pronounced her sick and had her call Panera at 9 am to say she wouldn't be in at 3 pm. She talked to the bitchy boss, Kim, who told her that she HAD to come in or find someone to cover her entire shift. She gave the Girl a bunch of phone numbers, mentioned that she was sick too, and told her to call and find a replacement. The Girl phoned several people and found someone that would work from 5-11, but couldn't come in at 3. She called work and was told that this was not acceptable and she would have to work her entire shift. With food. And a communicable illness.

I then called the manager and spoke to a guy who said that the rules were that the Girl had to find a replacement for her entire shift or come to work. I mentioned that she was really sick, with a communicable disease and that he was ordering her to come and work with food with an airborn illness. Which is AGAINST THE LAW. He didn't care, that was the deal, and if she didn't come in, they would fire her. WHICH IS ALSO AGAINST THE LAW. So I told him I was going to report him to the Labor Board on Monday, and he didn't seem to care.

The Girl found someone to work the other two hours, but I am seething. If they did this to her, they are doing it to all their other employees. They are making sick people work and handle your food. Forcing them or threatening their jobs. In this economy, people are going to choose to work sick. And that is a public health threat. For anyone that has a weakened immune system, eating at a Panera could be a death sentence. Customers aren't warned that this is the company's policy, but they should be. I eat their food, and now I'm totally grossed out by the fact that they allow their workers to handle the food when sick. I have a weakened immune system. A cold like that of the Girl's could put me right back in the hospital. Parents bring their kids in there all the time, not knowing that they are exposing them to diseases. Panera is especially popular with the blue-haired set here in our city, and they are more immunicologically fragile than the general population.

I am absolutely dumb-founded that a restaurant that prides itself on 'healthy' foods would behave so recklessly. You can bet I'm going to complain on Monday, not only to the Labor Board for unfair labor practices, but to our local health department as well. In the meantime I am warning you to avoid eating at Panera Bread until their policies change. I wouldn't want to be the reason anyone gets sick, and I don't want my daughter to be either.

Avoid Panera like the plague. Because they're spreading one right there on Needham Street.

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Blogger Daisy said...

Have you read "Nickel and Dimed"? This situation is all too common. I remember working at a hospital kitchen and being told if I was well enough to go to school, I needed to come to work.
In a hospital kitchen! Serving people who were seriously ill!

21/2/09 3:17 PM  
Blogger R said...

Let the CEO of Panera Bread know. I'm sure he'd be delighted to find out his stores encourage sick employees to work.

His contact info:

Ronald M. Shaich

6710 Clayton Road
Richmond Heights, MO 63117
Tel: (314) 633-7100
Fax: (314) 633-7200

21/2/09 3:48 PM  
Blogger S.G. said...

The answer to problems like these are labor unions in the workplace. A letter to the CEO might solve an isolated incident, but workers need contracts with good benefits.

21/2/09 3:50 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

I called the company Ethics hotline, which was a total waste of time. Our panera is a franchise, so they can do whatever they wanted. They could not tell me who the owner of the franchise was, nor could they tell me how to get in touch with the franchise's HR dept. Shady? You betcha!

On MOnday I'm calling the Better Business Bureau to find out who the franchise belongs to, and then I'm gonna call their HR dept and find out if this is indeed company policy. If it is, I'm off to the labor board and the health dept. This is truly disgusting.

21/2/09 3:53 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

Daisy, yeah, I read Nickel and Dimed. So did the Girl, and we both saw the similarities. But that doesn't make it right. I don't want to get sicker. I don't think anyone does. Sick people should not be serving food.

21/2/09 3:54 PM  
Blogger BrianCUA said...

Call your local Board of Health at City Hall as well. They can come down hard on businesses for these types of things.

21/2/09 4:25 PM  
Blogger bethany actually said...

Yikes! I am sure that kind of thing happens way more than it should. Good for you for standing up for your daughter and for the rest of the Panera customers who don't know the situation!

Also, I hope the Girl feels better soon!

21/2/09 5:07 PM  
Blogger frogknits said...

I hope your daughter gets well soon and you too!

I am sickened by they way they treat your daughter and other workers. I can't believe that I used to eat at Panera all the time when I lived in Boston and RI.

21/2/09 6:12 PM  
Blogger Rhea said...

Wow, interesting what goes on behind the scenes. Appalling.

21/2/09 6:20 PM  
Blogger MultiModalMama said...

Why is she working until 11 if she is only 16? Is this just a vacation week thing or is this all the time?

If it is during the school week, the company is violating state law for teens - they are limited in the number of hours and the lateness of the hour for school nights.

See also http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=elwdterminal&L=4&L0=Home&L1=Workers+and+Unions&L2=Wage+and+Employment+Related+Programs&L3=Youth+Employment+Information&sid=Elwd&b=terminalcontent&f=dos_youth_summary_of_laws&csid=Elwd

22/2/09 12:23 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

MultiModalMama, I did mention that this employing people that are sick is only ONE small infraction in a myriad of infractions. Yes, 11 is a regular time for her, and when I argued the threatened to fire her. She has also worked more than 40 hour weeks on MANY occasions, is required to work 3-11 at least 3 if not 4 weekdays days a week, and she works all weekend with 2 8+ hour shifts.

In other words, the laws don't apply to this particular Panera.

22/2/09 12:58 AM  
Blogger Ranchmom said...

Yikes, as they say, "You go girl!" Let us know how it turns out today when you talk to the Better Business Bureau and the Board of Health.

23/2/09 1:55 PM  
Blogger Eva said...

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We will be looking into this and will get back to you within 48 hours.

Eva Montibello
Director of Marketing
Boston Bread, LLC (a franchisee of Panera, LLC)

23/2/09 4:26 PM  
Blogger Meg said...

I was at Panera yesterday in Needham and had a terrible experience. We ordered and were told we would be called when our food was ready. There was no coffee in any of the containers. My son doesn't like melon and we asked for fruit w/out melon. Several people complained about the coffee. Then they called my name and it was only the hot choc. for my son. When we inquired about our sandwiches we were told again they would call our name. We waited for a long time and went up to the counter and there was no one there!We went up again and finally got a girl who said she didn't know anything about it. I asked for the manager and this rude girl, (Kim) came over. She demanded our receipt, we went back to our table and found it and gave it to her. She rudely told us to go sit dowm and she'd get to it. We asked about the fruit and she said we already put it away, we can't do it. I stood there and she finally came over and thrust the two plates at me and said "Here". I told her I wanted her supervisors name and I would be contacting him. She said go ahead and walked away. I questioned another girl at the counter who gave me a name of Mike, no last name. I went back to the table and started eating my sandwich, after a few bites i started gagging and choking, I stood up freaking out and reached into my throat and pulled out a large piece of waxed plastic that I believe goes in between the slices of cheese.I immediately went up to the counter and demanded to see Kim, I showed her the plastic from my sandwich and told her that she almost killed me! No apology, no nothing. I slammed my shoulder against the wall while i was choking and it now hurts like hell. I tried calling the corporate office to no avail. I went to the emergengy room today now i have to see an orthopedic surgeon. I have no idea what is wrong, I never had any shoulder pain before. I too, can't find any info on the franchise owner. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks, Meg

6/4/09 7:42 PM  
Blogger maria said...

I used used to work in the panera bread in the reston town center the big one in front of the ice skating and i must say that i have nver seen i company treat its employees so bad they don't care about you or how you are doing all thet care about is making money Unless you the relative of a manager or assistant manager they can do what ever they want and get away with the only way that the company is going to fire one of their manger or assistant manger is if they are stealing or get” cough “ having sex with one of their employer and even then I lost my hopes in that place or any other Panera bread for that matter is all base in who you know in the company the so call “ PANERA BREAD WORMS” is all a pile of bull if a company doesn’t take care of their employees so much so that the insurance the associates get is different then the management and not in a good way

22/4/09 12:10 PM  

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