I recently got a tattoo that became infected while working at a restaurant. I eventually was unable to bend my arm and felt sick. I was having diarrhea. I asked to leave to go to an urgent care and was denied. I asked hours later and was denied again.
I eventually left because of how awful I felt and the doctor said I had a highly contagious infection with a fever of 100F. Later that night I was told not to come in the next day and that I was fired.
I’m in Georgia so I’m an at-will employee, but did my employer break any laws forcing me to work and serve food when I was highly contagious?
The Georgia department of public health states on the basis of diarrhea, I should have not been working. And on the basis of an infected wound they should have provided me with impermeable bandages to cover my infected wound, but I was not given anything and allowed to touch food. The wound was on my wrist and forearm.
Is there any cause to sue for wrongful termination or would it not even be worth consulting for? Thank you for your time.
Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.
Your question raises two very important issues:
- First, did your employer break any food health and safety laws by forcing you to work while you were sick and suffering from a skin infection?
- Second, do you have a claim for wrongful termination because your employer fired you due to your medical conditions?
Let’s consider these issues one at a time…
Georgia Food Safety and Employee Health Requirements
You went to the right place when you checked the Georgia Department Of Public Health looking for information about state regulations related to when food service employees with infections or contagious diseases may work.
As you may already know, the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) website has both general information about all aspects of restaurant and food service law and downloadable publications, including a guide to Food Service Rules and Regulations for the state.
One of the GDPH’s food service publications is the Employee Illness Quick Decision Guide for Food Establishment Person-in-Charge. This guide lists various symptoms that an employee might be experiencing and tells the person in charge of the restaurant or food establishment what to do.
You’re exactly right that under Georgia law an employee who is experiencing diarrhea should be excluded from work and is allowed to return to work only if the employee has gone 24 hours without symptoms or provides specific medical clearance forms that his or her symptoms are from a noninfectious condition.
As you also noted in your question, if a food service employee is suffering from an infected wound, then Georgia law requires that the employee be restricted from working unless the infected wound is properly covered or has healed.
Given that your employer required you to work while you were experiencing diarrhea that may have been related to an infectious condition, and also while you were dealing with an infected skin condition that wasn’t properly covered, it appears that your employer violated several Georgia regulations related to food health and safety.
Wrongful Termination Claim
Just because your employer appears to have violated Georgia law by allowing you to work while potentially contagious or dealing with an infected skin condition, that does not automatically mean that you have a claim against your employer because he fired you because of those medical conditions.
Georgia, like many states, considers an employee to be at-will unless there is some type of employment contract or employment agreement. “At-will” means that your employer can fire you at any time. As the Atlanta Bar Association has noted:
“Georgia, like the great majority of states in the U.S., is an “at-will” state. This means that an employer can terminate an employee for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all, provided that the termination does not violate anti-discrimination or other relevant statutes.”
The Georgia statute governing at-will employment states:
“If a contract of employment provides that wages are payable at a stipulated period, the presumption shall arise that the hiring is for such period, provided that, if anything else in the contract indicates that the hiring was for a longer term, the mere reservation of wages for a lesser time will not control. An indefinite hiring may be terminated at will by either party.”
There are some public policy and federal and state law exceptions to the employment at will doctrine, but those tend to be very limited.
Generally recognized exceptions to the “At Will” doctrine include:
- Discrimination because of race, age, gender, national origin, religion, disability or pregnancy
- Qualified leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Personal leave related to treat an employee’s health or medical condition
Determining whether you fall under one of these or another exceptions to the employment at will doctrine can raise significant factual and legal issues. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine whether you have a claim because you were fired due to your health conditions.
Learn more here: Suing for Wrongful Termination
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.
We wish you the best with your claim,
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