One of the dangers many workers may not realize they face is becoming ill from food poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die from foodborne illnesses each year. Many workers must take time off work and receive medical care if they become sick from food poisoning. They may not consider filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, or if they do file a claim, can find that their employer denies their claim for benefits.
When Could You Be Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning can occur whenever contaminated food is consumed. A number of employers provide its workers with food through cafeterias, restaurants, food carts, vending machines, and prepared meals for workers. Workers in many industries may eat on the job and risk becoming ill with this disease. Some of these industries include:
- Restaurants and bars
- Fast-food restaurants
- Convenience stores and gas stations
- Grocery stores
- Some construction sites
- Any job that has work-related meals or other social gatherings where food is provided
In determining whether a worker is entitled to workers’ compensation, the primary issue will be whether the food was provided in the course of the worker’s employment. Some factors that could determine this include:
- Employer-supplied food. If the employer supplied the food or drink that made the worker ill, it will generally be considered within the worker’s employment, entitling him to workers’ compensation benefits. In addition, a worker who has a food expense deducted from his wages would most liked qualify to receive benefits.
- Employee-only cafeteria. If the employer sold food only to employees at an employee-only cafeteria or other food service, a worker who became ill after consuming food there could be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, this would be less likely if the cafeteria was open to the public as well.
- Meal break. When an employee purchases food from an employer while on an official meal break, this is often considered during the course of his employment. In some situations, a worker would not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if he was on an official meal break, such as if he brought and ate food from an outside source.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
When food or beverages are mishandled or not prepared properly, they can contain harmful bacteria that can make people ill. They are often found in raw and undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, unpasteurized milk, and produce. Some of the bacteria and germs include Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E. coli), Listeria monocytogenes, Norovirus, and Hepatitis A.
The symptoms of food poisoning can come on quickly within a few hours or take up to a few weeks after eating or drinking the contaminated food or drink. The symptoms usually last a few hours to a few days. Some of the symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Diarrhea, sometimes watery
- Pain and cramps in the abdomen
The treatment needed for food poisoning will depend on the source of the illness. For milder cases, a person may not need much treatment other than rest, over-the-counter medications, and drinking fluids. However, in more serious cases, a worker could require the following:
- Fluid replacement. When a person loses fluids and electrolytes through diarrhea or vomiting, these need to be replaced to prevent dehydration. In serious cases, the person may need to be hospitalized so that fluids can be received intravenously.
- Antibiotics. A doctor could prescribe antibiotics for certain types of bacterial food poisoning. For others, such as those caused by listeria, the worker could need to be hospitalized so that the antibiotics could be administered intravenously and his condition monitored.
In severe cases, food poisoning can cause potentially life-threatening complications, like dehydration, kidney failure, and death.
If you became ill with food poisoning from consuming food or beverages at work, you may need to fight to obtain the workers’ compensation benefits you could be entitled to. Start an online chat to schedule your free consultation to learn about your legal options.