restaurant servers and staff workers' comp rights in OhioThe coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc across many industries. Forced closures of certain types of businesses have meant job losses and a record number of people filing for unemployment. One sector hit hard at the beginning of the pandemic was the restaurant business. While food service was considered essential, restaurants weren't allowed to serve patrons on the property. Many workers lost their jobs.

However, as restaurants revamped processes, the people who remained employed had to perform unfamiliar and challenging tasks. As restrictions gradually lifted across Ohio, restaurant servers, bartenders, cooks, and bussers are pushed to their limits and may be at risk for a severe injury. These essential workers shouldn't overlook the possibility of filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Restaurant Work Is Physically Demanding—Especially Now!

I waited tables for five years during high school and college and think it's a job everyone should have to do at some point as it forced me to be organized and hone people skills. Serving food in a restaurant and working a fast-food counter were never easy jobs, but the demands on these workers are higher than ever. During the coronavirus pandemic, restaurant workers are dealing with difficult conditions, such as:

  • High-stress situations. Higher demand for take-out, uncertainty about job security, fewer people doing more work, and anxiety about the coronavirus have made restaurants stressful workplaces. When employees are under pressure and feeling stressed, they're more likely to have accidents, such as slipping and falling, cutting themselves, and burning themselves on hot surfaces.
  • Curbside pickup. Carrying orders out to cars pulling up in front of the restaurant creates hazards rarely encountered by servers. Tripping and falling, colliding with pedestrians, and even being hit by a car as they deliver takeout are all new dangers for them. It takes only one serious accident to cause a debilitating injury.
  • Outdoor dining. To provide safe, socially-distanced dining for patrons, restaurants have expanded patio seating, sometimes throughout parking lots and neighboring yards. While this might give diners peace of mind, it creates twice as much work for servers. Carrying food on heavy trays from the kitchen to tables spread out is labor-intensive, especially while wearing a mask. Summer temperatures make it even more difficult. Servers can sustain back, wrist, and knee injuries from the strain, and may suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke in these conditions.
  • Belligerent customers. Tempers are running high in these stressful times. Some Ohioans don’t like being told they have to wear a mask or that they can’t sit down and eat in the dining room, and they take their anger out on restaurant employees. Sadly, assaults have occurred in places of business across the country. If a counterworker, server or host is attacked and seriously injured by an angry patron, they can file a workers’ comp claim.
  • Exposure to coronavirus. Restaurant workers have always been at risk for injury due to the demanding nature of their jobs, but a brand new risk in these times is the risk of contracting the coronavirus from a co-worker or patron. Where the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation will come down on applicants who believe they contracted the virus at work is unclear, particularly for workers who aren't in healthcare or emergency services.

Even if you are a part-time or temporary worker in the restaurant industry, you're eligible for workers’ compensation when you're injured or made ill at work, need medical treatment, and cannot work.

Stressed-Out Employers Might Not Want to Deal With a Workers’ Comp Claim

It’s tough for everyone right now—we get that. But just because the owner or manager of the restaurant where you work is under stress, that’s no reason for them to dismiss your claim when you're injured performing duties beyond your usual scope. Even a global pandemic isn't a reason for you to suck it up and endure the pain or loss of income caused by a workplace injury.

Monast Law Office is open for business and ready to help you deal with a difficult employer or file an appeal on a denied claim. Request a free download of our book, The Worker’s Guide to Injury Compensation in Ohio, and call us to learn more about how we might help you. 


James Monast
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Board-Certified Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Columbus, Ohio