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Sick days taken from workers affected by Sandy

Food service companies are taking sick days from employees who couldn't make it to work because of Hurricane Sandy.

Some of the city's lowest-income workers are getting shorted because of Sandy, at least one city official says.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said at least seven major food service companies are docking about 4,000 employees' sick days for days of work missed during Hurricane Sandy.

According to de Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell, this is true even for workers who don't have a workplace to go to, as some lower Manhattan office buildings remain without power.

The food service workers' union, Local 100, filed a formal grievance with each of the companies as soon as the policy came out. The grievance was denied, according to de Blasio's office.

Norvell said some workers only found out about the policy when they got their pay stubs.

Evelyn Ponce, a Flik International food service worker in the Pfizer building, said that her employer is taking sick days first, then moving on to vacation days, and will ultimately just cease payment. Because she had no remaining sick or vacation days, Evelyn was not paid when she could not make it in to work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday while the subways weren't running.

She asked her manager if the company has insurance for situations like this, and he said they did, but that he was following orders from higher ups in the company.

"He said they're choosing not to pay, he wasn't agreeing but he said he has to do what they tell him to do," Ponce recounted.

Abigail Ramirez, an employee of food-service company Aramark who works at Goldman Sachs, was unable to make it to work on the Monday and Tuesday of the storm, along with most of her colleagues. They also were docked sick days.

"We didn't choose to stay home, it was out of our hands," Ramirez said. "I have six kids. If it was up to me, I would've walked there, that's how much I need it."

Ramirez said 90 percent of her coworkers live paycheck to paycheck. She noted that government officials had made efforts to help businesses large and small who were impacted by the storm.

"Some people who work with me lost their homes, had no power, they couldn't come to work and now they're not going to get paid," she lamented. "How are you going to take from us, the poor?"

An Aramark official and a Flik official did not respond to requests for comment.

 
 
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