Exploring sick leave policies with L.A. food service workers

The Challenge 

Some food-borne disease outbreaks in the U.S. result from restaurant employees, especially food preparers, working when they are ill. They come to work sick at least in part because they don’t get paid sick leave and can’t afford to take time off. However, a law requiring paid sick leave for all employees in California became effective July 1, 2015.

Before the law, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health surveyed the practices of restaurant workers to see what sick leave policies were already in place.

The public health department’s Acute Communicable Disease Control Program asked Westat to help conduct the survey of managers and food service workers at 300 restaurants across Los Angeles County.

Our Solutions 

  • We finalized the survey questionnaire, which included questions on sick leave policies. It also asked whether employees did one of the following:
    • Came to work sick
    • Stopped working if they became sick at work
    • Worked differently if they were sick on the job
    • Would be more likely to take time off when sick under the new law
  • We also collected information on the number of employees at the restaurant, whether it was part of a chain, how long employees had worked at the restaurant, and more.
  • To account for managers and owners who were difficult to reach, we
    • Increased the sample size
    • Increased the number of call-back attempts
    • Sent followup letters to restaurants as needed, explaining the importance of the survey
    • Asked the county health officers to contact restaurant owners and managers to promote the study
  • We conducted in-person interviews with about 700 food service workers and managers.

The Results 

  • The survey results will help the health department determine the impact of the new law on restaurant practices and public health.

Our Client 

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health - Acute Communicable Disease Control Program