Norovirus is the perfect human pathogen. With its low median infectious dose and stability, norovirus is built to be transferred. Beyond its durability, billions of particles can be shed in every gram of feces and vomit from an infected individual and can be transferred well via fomites, food and water.
Sort of a nightmare for a restaurant if one of their kitchen staff shows up to work ill.
And a worse situation is when a manager says to an ill food handler that she can’t go home until after the lunch rush.
Which is apparently what happened at a Freeport, Texas Subway. According to Emily Thomas at the Huffington Post, former sandwich artist Elizabeth Taff was eventually fired for wanting to go home because she had vomited.
A Subway worker in Freeport, Texas, claims she was forced to continue working her shift while suffering from a stomach bug, then was fired the same day.
Elizabeth Taff, 24, says she was so sick she could barely stand up straight and vomited several times during her shift on July 11, but her manager refused to let her leave unless she found someone to cover her shift.
“About 40 minutes into my shift I felt nauseous. My mouth started watering, and I knew I was about to vomit. I ran into the restroom and vomited repeatedly,” Taff told The Huffington Post. “I went and let my manager know, [but] she told me to find my own replacement after lunch rush.”
Taff says she then summoned enough strength to get through the lunch rush, hoping to track down another employee to fill in for her. But no one else was available, she said.
She noticed vomit on her work clothes and, rather than take a pay cut for a new work shirt, phoned home for someone to bring her a clean outfit, she said. She also maintains she didn’t leave work for fear of getting fired and losing her paycheck.
Speaking to local news outlet KPRC, Taff expressed concern for the impact her sickness could have had on customers.
“I was touching everybody’s sandwiches,” she said. “I’m like, ‘This ain’t right.’ I had gloves on but that doesn’t matter.”
Ultimately, though, she was fired that day. Subway asserts the decision was due to her “poor performance and insubordination,” reports KPRC.
“I was on my knees [on the grass outside the restaurant], while [the manager] berated me with remarks such as ‘you’re so stupid, if you cant handle working while feeling ill you don’t need to work here, all you had to do was switch shirts and finish your shift,’” Taff told HuffPost. “She told me I was fired since I was unable to talk, due to vomiting all over the place.”