ALEXANDER BROWN/THE HOYA Tipped wait staff were not included in a 2008 law that obligates sick leave provisions.
ALEXANDER BROWN/THE HOYA
Tipped wait staff were not included in a 2008 law that obligates sick leave provisions.

A bill introduced in the D.C. City Council on Tuesday that would provide paid sick days to tipped wait staff has faced criticism from some D.C. restaurants, including the Clyde’s Restaurant Group.

The law would expand the 2008 Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act, which required paid sick days for all District workers, except tipped wait staff. The 2008 legislation made D.C. the second city in the country, following San Francisco, to require paid sick leave for its workers.

The Paid Sick Days for All coalition has spent the last two years advocating for the extension of required paid sick leave to tipped wait staff, citing its exclusion as a public health issue. According to the coalition, 59 percent of D.C. restaurant workers have prepared food while sick.

Claude Andersen, corporate operations manager for Clyde’s Restaurant Group, which owns 13 eateries in the District, including Clyde’s, 1789 and The Tombs, stated that Clyde’s had yet to take a stand — either for or against — the proposed law.

“The laws that stand now are good laws,” Andersen said, referring to the current legislation that excludes tipped wait staff. “I’ve been in this business for 50 years and we’ve never had a problem with sick days.”

In 2011, the Clyde’s group received a score of zero in every category of the Restaurant Opportunities Centered United dining guide, which rated restaurants based on working conditions. Categories included hourly wages for tipped and non-tipped personnel, advancement and paid sick days.

Anderson responded to similar concerns about paid sick days in 2011 in a Washington City Paper article.

“We think that we allow them to easily make up whatever they want whenever they want,” he said at the time.

With the proposed law introduced Tuesday, Andersen voiced concerns over potential abuses by workers who might take advantage of the system.

“It could create problems for our customers without employees there to serve them,” Andersen said.

Andy Shallal, who owns Busboys and Poets at 14th and V streets, among other holdings, is a staunch supporter of the proposed law and has already given his workers paid sick days.

“It’s not without its challenges, but with constant communication and well-set parameters, we have had no experience with abuses,” Shallal said.

Erin Claire (MSB ’12), a full-time employee at The Tombs, however, saw potential for abuse of paid sick leave.

“I agree with the sentiment but I think implementation of the new law would be a challenge,” Claire said.

She noted that she makes enough to get by without paid sick days but could understand the benefits if she had a family to provide for.

Yelly Malinsky (SFS ’15), who is a part-time server at The Tombs, agreed with Claire, stating that she was in favor for paid sick days for full time employees but not for part-time workers like herself.

“It doesn’t make sense for the restaurant industry,” said Malinsky. “Not getting paid when you’re sick is an incentive to getting your shift covered.”

While most people get their shifts covered, Malinsky noted that Tombs employees have come into work when they have been sick.

“They definitely do it,” Malinsky said. “But if you’re sick, you’re sick. They’re not going to make you come in.”

The bill has been referred to the committee on Workforce and Community Affairs, where it will be voted on before reaching the full council
Eight councilmembers sponsored and support the bill, and the remaining three councilmembers, including Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), oppose it.

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