Posted on: December 14, 2023

Which Symptoms Should Servers Report to Their Managers?

Which Symptoms Should Servers Report to Their Managers?

Recent reports by Intertek Alchemy reveal that 51% of food handlers have confessed to working while sick. The thought of consuming food handled by an ill person is unsettling for everyone. To prevent passing on food illnesses to unsuspecting customers and ensure their safety, it is crucial to know which symptoms must be reported to a supervisor.

In this blog, we'll address a critical aspect of server well-being – the symptoms they should never ignore and should confidently report to their managers. By the end of this blog, you'll have a better understanding of when and how to communicate your health and well-being, which is essential for a sustainable and rewarding career.

When You Are Sick Which Symptom Should You Report to Your Manager? 

When you are sick, it's essential to report any symptoms that may affect your ability to perform your job safely and effectively to your manager. While some mild symptoms may not be a cause for immediate concern, certain signs should never be ignored, as they could indicate more severe health issues or be highly contagious to others in the workplace. 

There might be days when you feel inclined to tough it out and push through work without informing your manager about not feeling well, but this approach can be hazardous. While you might believe you are being responsible by not telling the truth, going to work while sick can pose a risk to both customers and fellow employees. Prioritizing open communication with your manager about your health is essential for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment for everyone involved. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that you report the following symptoms to your manager: 

Vomiting and Diarrhea 

Vomiting and diarrhea are the prevalent symptoms of foodborne illness and are highly contagious due to the presence of the pathogen responsible for the illness in these bodily fluids. These symptoms could indicate a gastrointestinal infection, commonly caused by viruses or food poisoning. 

If you are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, it's essential to stay home and rest to avoid spreading the infection to others. Before your manager permits you to return to work, you must be free from diarrhea or vomiting symptoms for a minimum of 24 hours. 


You must also avoid showing up to work as a food server with jaundice, as it is highly contagious and may indicate a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. Jaundice leads to the yellow discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes due to elevated levels of bilirubin, a yellow-orange substance, in the bloodstream.

 Being affected by jaundice can pose a significant risk of transmitting the virus to others, making it essential to stay home until you have fully recovered and are no longer contagious. 

Fever With Sore Throat

The presence of a sore throat accompanied by a fever might be a potential foodborne illness. A fever is often a sign of an underlying infection or illness. It can cause fatigue and reduce your ability to concentrate, which may compromise your performance at work. 

Moreover, working with a fever could put your colleagues and customers at risk of contracting the illness. A sore throat may suggest an upper respiratory tract infection, such as the flu or a cold. If you find yourself frequently coughing or sneezing, it's best to take a sick day to avoid spreading germs to coworkers and guests. 

These symptoms may signal a potential foodborne illness, and continuing to work with food while experiencing them could lead to the rapid spread of the illness among both customers and coworkers. These harmful pathogens can contaminate food and food-contact surfaces, posing a risk of infection to others, even if proper handwashing measures are followed. 

Moreover, you should also inform your manager about an infected wound. An infected wound may be accompanied by pain, swelling, redness, or the presence of pus or fluid discharge. To prevent any contamination, it is crucial to cover the infected wound with a waterproof bandage. If the wound is on your hand, an additional single-use glove should be worn. Certain food service establishments may even require food handlers to use brightly colored bandages over wounds to facilitate easy identification in case they accidentally fall into food. Taking these precautions ensures the safety and well-being of both customers and staff. 

The most important thing is that you are responsible and promptly report any of the mentioned symptoms to your manager and stay home (when necessary) to prevent the spread of illness. 

Other Illnesses to Report 

Apart from notifying your manager about the symptoms mentioned earlier, you must also report if you have received a diagnosis or had any exposure to the following foodborne illnesses:

  • norovirus
  • hepatitis A
  • Shigella
  • Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia Coli (STEC)
  • Salmonella Typhi (typhoid fever)
  • Salmonella (nontyphoidal)

These foodborne illnesses are often linked to contaminated produce, undercooked foods, and shellfish from polluted waters, but their primary mode of transmission is through an infected food handler

If you receive a diagnosis for any of these illnesses, your manager or the person in charge will be required to inform your local health department. The decision on when it's safe for you to resume work will be based on the specific illness and will be determined by your manager. 

Personal Hygiene Practices 

Just as reporting specific symptoms and illnesses to your manager ensures the safety of customers and coworkers, practicing good hygiene is equally crucial. Adhere to these essential personal hygiene tips to maintain food safety:

  • Handwashing: Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water before handling food, after using the restroom, touching your face, coughing, sneezing, or handling raw foods. 
  • Keep Fingernails Clean: Maintain well-groomed fingernails by keeping them trimmed and filed with smooth edges. Refrain from using fingernail polish and artificial nails unless you always wear single-use gloves. 
  • Avoid Touching Face and Hair: Refrain from touching your face, hair, or any other body parts while handling food to prevent contamination. 
  • Tie Back Hair: Tie hair back or wear the proper hairnet to keep hair from falling into food. 
  • Wear Clean Clothing: Always wear clean and appropriate clothing while working with food to avoid contamination. When leaving food preparation areas, such as to take out the garbage, remember to remove your apron. Additionally, avoid using your apron or chef coat to wipe your hands. 
  • Use Disposable Gloves: When handling ready-to-eat foods, use disposable gloves to prevent direct contact and minimize the risk of contamination. 
  • Avoid Wearing Jewelry: Refrain from wearing jewelry, especially rings and bracelets, that could fall into food during preparation. Only plain rings, such as wedding bands without stones or etchings, are permitted to be worn as jewelry. 
  • Stay Home When Sick: If you are feeling unwell, especially if you have symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or jaundice, avoid handling food and stay home to prevent the spread of illnesses. 

Remember to consistently wash your hands in a designated handwashing sink; avoid using sinks used for food preparation, dishwashing, or disposing of mop water and other liquid waste for handwashing purposes. 

Quick Quiz: Symptoms Servers Should Report to Their Managers

1. Which of the following symptoms does not need to be reported to the person in charge before working? 

a) Fever 

b) Coughing 

c) Mild headache 

d) Vomiting 

2. Which of the following symptoms is not associated with an allergic reaction in food handlers? 

a) Skin rash or hives 

b) Sneezing 

c) Swollen lips or tongue 

d) Itchy, watery eyes 


1. Which of the following symptoms does not need to be reported to the person in charge before working? Answer: c) Mild headache

Explanation: While it's essential to monitor and report significant health concerns like fever, coughing, and vomiting, a mild headache may not require immediate reporting unless it worsens or is accompanied by other severe symptoms.

2. Which of the following symptoms is not associated with an allergic reaction in food handlers? Answer: b) Sneezing

Explanation: Sneezing is typically associated with respiratory infections like the common cold or flu rather than allergic reactions. Allergic reactions in food handlers often appear as skin rashes or hives, swollen lips or tongue, and itchy, watery eyes. 

Employer Responsibilities

The manager bears the responsibility of educating their employees about the significance of staying home when experiencing any of the conditions mentioned in this blog. Managers should encourage their restaurant employees to take responsibility and openly report symptoms or illnesses. Assure them that there will be no pressure to work when sick and stress the importance of safeguarding the health and well-being of customers. 

Remember, prompt reporting of symptoms that could affect your ability to work safely and efficiently is crucial. Taking care of your health and communicating effectively with your manager ensures a healthy work environment and prevents potential risks to both you and others in the workplace. 

Employers are responsible for the safety of their customers, so remember to report to your manager if you are experiencing or have been exposed to any of the symptoms mentioned above. 

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