Burlington restaurant responds to leaked email on sick policy

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 11:40 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 12, 2021 at 9:16 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A local restaurant is receiving backlash after a leaked internal email by management appears to suggest that sick employees keep working.

Cindi Kozak, general manager at Hen of the Wood in Burlington said none of their employees face repercussions for calling out sick. “We’ve been going by the CDC recommended guidelines and maybe something recommended can be a little gray at times,” Kozak said.

She sent an email to employees saying “if you feel sick with a cold and do not have coverage for your shift, you are expected to show up for work.” That email was shared anonymously by an employee online.

Hen of the Wood email
Hen of the Wood email(WCAX)

“It’s not the culture we’re trying to instill here. I think it’s far from what we’ve done over the past 13 years,” Kozak said. She said the email was supposed to be a summary of an email sent to her by the owner, Eric Warnstedt.

Warnstedt forwarded that email to us, but it doesn’t mention coming to work sick.

Email from owner of Hen of the Wood
Email from owner of Hen of the Wood(WCAX)

Vermont Department of Health spokesperson, Ben Truman, said they received seven complaints from the public. The department contacted Warnstedt to let them know and make sure they were aware of the state’s COVID-19 recommendations.

Truman said Warnstedt was extremely responsive and quick to clarify the intent of the email.

A lot of people seeing the email sent out by Kozak say it’s concerning. “I think it’s inappropriate,” explained Andreas Marsala, a Winooski resident. “I used to work in a restaurant and that was the policy before COVID, but the fact it’s still a policy after COVID is even more inappropriate.”

“If you are sick, you shouldn’t have to worry about what’s going on in your place of work,” said Henry Hernandez of South Burlington. “That’s something that is taken care of afterward.”

Kozak said the response is prompting them to look at how they do things internally. She said they had an hour-long meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss changes. “Everybody just works really hard,” Kozak said. “We try to bring our best to the table every day and we try to do better than yesterday every day.”

Some of the changes Kozak says were discussed include more PTO, a clearer vaccination policy, and better communication about calling in sick.

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