Olive Garden fires manager for time-off rant: ‘If your dog died … prove it’


Soup and breadsticks may have been limitless, but in an Olive Garden something else was missing: the patience of a manager. The manager of a Kansas site of the Italian food chain was recently fired after sending a message to employees threatening them with the number of times they called unemployment and demanding proof of illness, dead dogs and emergencies family.

“From now on, if you call, you might as well go out and find another job,” read the message to workers at an Overland Park site, according to a local news report by KCTV5. “We no longer tolerate ANY excuse to cancel.”

The manager, who has not been named, demanded that staff provide evidence for any reason they might have for not working their shift. “If you are sick, you have to come and prove it to us. If your dog is dead, you must bring it back and prove it to us. If it’s a “family emergency” and you can’t tell, so be it. Go work somewhere else.

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A spokeswoman for Darden Restaurants, owner of Olive Garden, confirmed to The Washington Post that the missive was sent to employees and said the restaurant fired the manager after learning about it.

“We strive to provide a caring and respectful work environment for our team members. This message is not aligned with our company values,” a company statement read. “We parted ways with this manager.”

Although the Olive Garden manager’s approach may have been unreasonable and potentially dangerous (a point of calling in sick is that you don’t get in touch with co-workers, right?), many bosses could share the frustration of to be short-staffed. A stew of illnesses this winter, including RSV, covid, flu and colds, are forcing many workers to stay home. Parents, who simultaneously face childcare shortages, are particularly in demand. More than 100,000 people in the United States missed work last month due to issues with their child care, which is the highest number ever, even at the worst of the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the restaurants, already deal with a labor shortagecould be harder hit by such absences.

Teofilo Reyes, program director for worker advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Center, says the pressure from managers to cut sick days is widespread — though not as overtly expressed as in the case of the ‘Olive Garden. “It’s all too common,” he said. “And that was true even during the pandemic.” The group’s research has shown that many workers come to work sick, with many citing fear of losing income – and retaliation from employers.

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