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So this gnome is not ashamed to admit she is a Dunkin Donuts fiend. During the work week, I go every morning. Sometimes multiple times a day. It is a sickness. But with small lattes for 99 cents, who can blame me?

Tonight after work I decided I needed another one, so I headed into the Dunkin Donuts across the street from my office for what should have been a drama-free caffeine fix.

How wrong I was. Right after I ordered my drink, a woman who had been talking rather loudly and angrily into her cell phone in the corner turned her attention to the woman working behind the counter, who had coughed a couple of times.

"If you're sick, you should go home!" she snarled. "I don't want to patronize a place with sick people."

Then, in a move that I can only describe as bordering on psychopathic, she headed to the counter, smiling at me as she walked by, calmly saying to me, "I'm not the one who's being rude, she is."

Instead of leaving this place she apparently thinks is awash with sickness, she decides she wants to order something. So she goes to to the counter and the woman tries to take her order.

"No, I don't want you! You're sick! Do you even understand English?"

At this point, I decided I had to say something. Then, this rude, racist woman, who just moments ago tried to justify her horrendous behavior to me, completely exploded. Apparently I deeply offended her by daring to stick up for the people working for crappy wages behind the counter. I got the feeling that she doesn't get challenged often.

So Lesson #1 from this incident is to always call out people who are rude, degrading and cruel. They act that way because they can. Bystander responsibility is imperative.

Lesson #2 is that we need mandatory paid sick days. If the woman working behind the counter was indeed ill, (and not just clearing her throat) it is highly likely that she did not feel like she could call out sick. Most retail and food service workers work for hourly wages and tips-and if they don't work, they don't get paid. As it is, most of these jobs hover around minimum wage, and the people who work them can't make ends meet even working full hours.

Retail and restaurant employers are notoriously stingy with benefits like paid sick days. I worked in a grocery store for years, much of that time as a cake decorator. I would be lying if I said I was perfectly healthy every time I was frosting those cakes.

I dealt with rude and disrespectful people all day at the grocery store. But none so degrading as this woman at Dunkin Donuts tonight. It's bad enough to have to work when you are sick, but to be dehumanized by a hateful and racist customer is disgusting.

That woman behind the counter deserves better. No one should have to work when they are sick and then be verbally abused because they are working while sick. Too many companies have proven they are not willing to do the right thing on their own. We need mandatory paid sick days now.

Originally posted to gardengn0me on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:42 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Retail and Workplace Pragmatists - Members and Editors.

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