A waitress at a Red Lobster restaurant in Yonkers, New York, on July 24, 2014.
(Updated: 3:05 p.m. EST, March 12, 2020)
Topline: Olive Garden’s parent company announced on Tuesday a sick leave policy for its hourly workers, becoming the latest in a string of corporations to roll out similar policies amid the coronavirus outbreak and underscoring the lack of benefits that are typically not given to hourly workers in America.
- Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden and seven other restaurant chains, told Forbes via email that paid sick leave is calculated based on each location’s minimum wage requirements and available to hourly workers after 90 days of employment.
- Darden did not respond to a request for comment on what happens to workers who fall ill and don’t meet that minimum period of employment criteria.
- In the tech industry, corporate employees at Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, among others, are allowed to work from home during the outbreak, something that Amazon’s hourly warehouse workers cannot do.
- According to multiple reports, Amazon first eased up its attendance policy for warehouse workers by not penalizing them for any missed days for the month of March, but then said Wednesday they will now be paid for that time off; Walmart also relaxed its policy, but workers might need to use accumulated paid time off in some scenarios, according to CNBC.
- Apple’s retail employees can take unlimited sick time if they show COVID-19 symptoms, the Washington Post reported, while Walmart, the U.S.’ largest employer with 1.5 million workers, said Tuesday it would provide two weeks of pay for any hourly worker affected by store closures or is diagnosed with coronavirus.
- Uber and Lyft have also rolled out policies for its drivers, with both promising sick pay—and both not providing details on how that pay would be determined, according to the Post.
Big number: Over 80 million. That’s how many Americans were paid for hourly work in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number made up nearly 60% of all wage and salary workers that year.
Key background: Attendance policies for hourly workers, referred to as “no-fault,” punish lateness or absences with a system of accumulated points and can result in termination if an employee racks up too many, according to the ACLU. Many hourly and low-wage workers who don’t receive sick pay can feel compelled to show up for work even if they’re ill, according to the Washington Post, a behavior called “contagious presenteeism.” The federal government does not guarantee sick leave for workers, but most Americans believe that businesses should offer sick pay, according to the Post. At least a dozen states have passed bills since 2011 that have thwarted attempts to require medical leave. And another 13 states—plus the District of Columbia—have passed bills requiring medical leave, also since 2011. Even in those states where sick pay is required, employers can skirt the regulation by hiring people as hourly contractors instead of employees, the Post reported. According to Fast Company, many restaurant workers are not guaranteed any kind of sick leave and are being forced to work through the outbreak, while the ability to work from home for office workers is usually at an employer’s discretion.
What to watch for: If the 0% payroll tax pitched by President Trump to lawmakers Tuesday, aimed at providing relief for workers, makes any headway on Capitol Hill. The tax cut is part of a developing White House plan designed to stimulate the economy as markets get walloped by the outbreak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted a 2,000 point drop Monday, and made some headway Tuesday by rising 1,000 points—but wiped out those gains by Wednesday morning.