John Andrade is owner of Meridian Pint.
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Clarification, Accountability and a New Direction
Over the past 10 days the topic of Paid Sick Leave for Employees has become a hot button issue in DC politics. Last week, when called by a reporter from DCist, I was asked about my position on paid sick leave for tipped employees. I made the unfortunate mistake of speaking on this topic without being fully aware of this law and most importantly, how my staff truly felt on this topic. I was quoted as saying:
“I do my very best as the principal owner to take care of my staff above and beyond what I would argue is 99 percent of the restaurants in the industry, and I do very well at that. But when it comes to the government mandating that I take care of paying my employees in their absence, whether it be from being sick or emergencies or other issues that may arise, I’m not in favor of the government mandating it.”
I would like to apologize for those that I may have offended, most importantly my staff, but the fact is that I love my community and I love my staff even more. While I am not perfect, I would never expect anyone to work when they are sick or otherwise not able to work. I have always worked with our staff in these situations. I would prefer that staff members take the necessary time to get well. However, despite all my good intentions and great track record with the community, local charities and environmental sustainability, I have fallen short on the most important part of Meridian Pint, my staff. I am sorry to you all.
After reading the quote from another restaurant owner who said “paid sick leave is an expense that he and his counterparts can afford” I realized that he is right. While I believe that many restaurants in DC can barely afford to stay open, much less pay for sick leave, Meridian Pint is a great example of a restaurant that can and should afford to go above and beyond this law. Therefore, as of this week Meridian Pint will now offer paid sick leave to all of its employees including tipped employees.
The truth is, that the ‘Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008’ is one of the most important laws that restaurants must abide by yet most of us in the industry are not aware of it and often overlook it. The attention that has been brought to my doorstep this past week has opened my eyes to the seriousness and magnitude of this oversight. I have become the poster child for so many of us in the restaurant industry who overlook the most basic needs and rights of our staff members. Our staff members are the life of our restaurants and without their good health and commitment we would not exist.
I hope that all of my poor decisions up to and including this past week serve as a
wake up call to all my fellow restaurant owners. We cannot drive our businesses forward without taking care of the most important part of our business, our staff.
I would again like to apologize to my staff for overlooking your most important
needs, your health and your income. Moving forward I will promise to always put
you all first above all other concerns. I would also like to apologize to my
community for not following through on my pledge to be the best gathering place in Columbia Heights. I have let you down and for that I am sorry.