After reviewing the policy, Fish said the university decided to instate modifications and allow workers one warnings, instead of treating everyone with zero tolerance.
Victor Chacon and Bernard George, two Chartwells employees recently fired, were reinstated last Wednesday. Chacon returned to work on Thursday morning and George returns today. Both will receive pay for their time away from campus.
The Miami Hurricane reported Sept. 6 that the two employees were fired because of zero tolerance regarding the “Associate Return to Work” policy, which is specific to the University of Miami.
The policy was enacted in 2004 after about 200 students living in Stanford and Hecht fell ill before winter break due to the spreading of a norovirus, a highly contagious disease.
Since then, workers have been required to notify the university when they plan to return to work, and wait for the university to return the call and set up an appointment for a “Return to Work” authorization form. This form is required for every returning employee prior to their re-entering of any on-campus foodservice establishment.
“A lot of folks just want to work, and they’ll come in,” said Alan Fish, vice president of Business Services. “We want to make sure they don’t come in as long as they have symptoms that relate to Gastroenteritis or noroviruses.”
Although Chacon and George did not set up an appointment with an attendance manager, neither employee had re-entered a food service establishment before they were fired; they returned to the business office.
Chacon’s wife is on chemotherapy, and George’s wife has diabetes. Without a job, neither would have health insurance to pay for medical bills.
After reviewing the policy, Fish said the university decided to instate modifications and allow workers three warnings, instead of treating everyone with zero tolerance. Subsequently, workers returning to work with norovirus symptoms and no regard for the “Associate Return to Work” policy will continue to be treated with zero tolerance.
“I can come into work with a cold or still recovering from an illness, but someone who handles food or has contact with food cannot,” President Donna E. Shalala said Friday. “Food service workers should have different procedures.”
Still, the case of Chacon and George brought to light the necessity for individual circumstances to be taken into account.
“I don’t want to diminish the health and safety of the students,” Fish said, “but there are issues where a final warning is better than a termination.”
The Miami Hurricane plans to continue to look into complaints it has received about Chartwells.
Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.