Working when ill: Darden’s CEO grilled at shareholders meeting

The Orlando shareholder’s meeting of Darden Restaurants turned confrontational Tuesday when several workers and activists brought complaints directly to chief executive officer Clarence Otis.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that former and current employees attended the gathering with Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an advocacy group that has sued Darden’s Capital Grille over allegations it underpaid and discriminated against workers. Darden has said the suit is baseless.

The complaints, which included lack of paid sick time and changes in compensation, came during a question and answer session after Otis touted Darden as a great place to work. Darden, he said, has “an extraordinary record when it comes to employees and employee engagement.”

John Cronan, an organizer with Restaurant Opportunities Centers, said he was a former Capital Grille waiter often waited on customers while ill. “I couldn’t afford to take a day off even if I was sick,” he said.

Otis told him, “As a former worker, you know that we have very strict and aggressive rules to encourage people not to come to work when they’re ill, so I’m glad you’re a former employee and not a current employee.”

The company says people who call in sick can swap shifts with others.

The complaints are timely, because activists in Orange County have been trying to get a measure on the ballot requiring businesses with 15 or more workers to provide paid sick time. Darden is among companies opposing it.

In its report released Tuesday, ROC focused heavily on sick time. The group blamed a hepatitis scare last year at a North Carolina Olive Garden on a lack of paid sick time. Hundreds of people who had dined there ended up getting vaccinated against hepatitis A after an employee was diagnosed with the disease. A class action lawsuit was filed last year on behalf of those people. Darden said the lawsuit was dropped after it offered to compensate those who had to get innoculated.

Darden said the employee was diagnosed with hepatitis during a routine doctor’s visit, notified the company and did not come into work after that for more than a month, and Darden continued to pay her.

There were no reports of any customers getting sick.

Clostridium perfringens in tacos fingered as source that sickened 50 at South Dakota basketball game

Laboratory testing by the South Dakota Department of Health has identified Clostridium perfringens as the cause of the outbreak associated with the Pierre-Mitchell high school boys’ basketball game held in Pierre, Jan. 31.

KSFY ABC reports the investigation, which included voluntary questionnaires, implicated tacos as the source food of the outbreak; of those completing questionnaires, 75 per cent who ate the tacos reported becoming ill.

The outbreak follows a similar C. perfringens outbreak in Las Vegas before Christmas in which ham was held at improper temperatures and inadequately reheated, sickening at least 21 people. As noted in the Las Vegas outbreak, the majority of C. perfringens outbreaks are often the results of improperly cooled food or food held at room temperature for extended periods.

Don’t stand so close to me: 2010 norovirus outbreak struck several pro basketball teams

Basketball is mind-numbingly dull to watch. But it can be mildly entertaining if players are vomiting.

A new study describes a 2010 outbreak involving several NBA teams (that’s the professionals, the ones who aren’t playing and no one notices), the first known report of a norovirus outbreak in a professional sports association.

Published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and available online, the study highlights unique circumstances for spreading this highly contagious virus among players and staff on and off the court.

Author Rishi Desai, MD, MPH, and colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that as many as 13 NBA teams located in 11 different states were affected by a norovirus outbreak from November to December 2010. "We confirmed that norovirus spread within at least one team and possibly from one team to another," said Dr. Desai. "Overall, 21 players and three staff from 13 teams were affected."

Rigorous sports schedules and close interactions between athletes and staff put them at increased risk for norovirus infection, the study authors note. Athletes and staff spend a lot of time together in closed spaces—in buses and airplanes, locker rooms, and on the court. Norovirus can spread easily and quickly in such spaces — through the air and on objects and surfaces where it can be infectious for days or weeks. Infected persons can shed billions of virus particles, making it very infective. Even the best hygiene and cleaning may not get rid of the virus since it resists common disinfectants.

Teams can limit norovirus transmission by keeping ill athletes off the court during games and practice, the study suggests, and by avoiding contact with athletes and staff when they are ill and up to 24 hours after recovery. Strict personal hygiene, including handwashing with soap and water, disinfecting common spaces with a sodium hypochlorite solution, and early reporting are critical for limiting transmission.