Restaurant workers are struggling to take time off during Omicron. That’s nothing new

The restaurant industry can be a brutal place for workers. The hours are long, the work is physically demanding, and workers are often encouraged—or bullied—into showing up despite illness and injuries. Low wages and a lack of sick pay are major barriers for many low-income Americans when it comes to taking time off, but the problem goes beyond that in restaurants, where working through third-degree burns or high fevers is treated like a “competitive sport,” as one former-cook told Grub Street. Omicron is changing that for some employers, who have been shutting down or reducing menus in response to many of their workers getting sick or being exposed to the virus. But without changes to sick leave laws in many states (or to wages) it seems unlikely that there will be a major transformation in the industry. —Jessica Terrell