A Texan Subway worker has alleged she was made to work while suffering from a severe stomach bug and was then fired during her shift.
While Australian businesses are struggle to cope with the flu season and staff absenteeism in the southern hemisphere, the fast food chain’s US arm is facing a media storm as the employee’s story goes viral.
Elizabeth Taff says she was so sick she could barely stand up straight and vomited several times during her shift at a Subway restaurant in Freeport, Texas, but her manager refused to let her leave until she found someone to cover her shift, according to The Huffington Post.
“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 said she then worked through her shift with vomit on her clothes, but was terminated from her sandwich artist role later that day.
“She told me I was fired since I was unable to talk, due to vomiting all over the place,” said Taff.
Subway has defended the manager’s actions, telling a local Texan radio, KPRC Local 2, Taff was fired due to poor performance and insubordination. Subway also told The Huffington Post Taff’s allegations were not true.
Employees from a nearby business say they called an ambulance after they found Taff reeling on the ground behind the fast-food restaurant.
Later, one of those employees took to Facebook to post a photo of Taff lying on her side, with the comment: “If you planned on eatin Freeport Subway today i’d advice you not to. I witnessed an employee vomiting and her manager tellin her just to switch shirts.”
Taff told KPRC she had concerns over the hygiene issues created by her contagious stomach bug.
“I was touching everybody’s sandwiches,” she said. “I’m like, ‘This ain’t right.’ I had gloves on but that doesn’t matter.”
In Australia, according to the Food Standards Board of Australia, food handlers must tell their work supervisor if they are suffering from vomiting, diarrhoea, a fever or a sore throat with a fever.
Employers must not let food handlers handle any food where there is a chance they might make the food unsafe or unsuitable because of their illness. If a food handler stays on at work to do other duties, everything reasonable must be done to make sure that food is not contaminated.
The Canberra Times recently reported one in five Canberrans say they have avoided dining out because they feared the meal would be unsafe.
The survey of 1000 people found 19% of respondents had avoided buying from a food business at least once in the past year “because of a lack of confidence about food hygiene standards”.
Subway Australia wascontacted by SmartCompany, and the company said it would leave comment to Subway US, which denied the allegations in a statement.