WATCH: How easily ill workers can spread germs

Posted at 8:10 PM, Jan 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-25 22:10:53-05

A Colorado lawmaker is proposing a "Scarlet Letter" of sorts for statewide restaurants.

State Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster, wants to require restaurant owners to have to post a notice on their door if they do not give their employees five paid sick days.

"If employees are not offered paid time off when they're sick, then we, as the public, should know," said Ulibarri. "If we know there's dairy in our food or gluten in our food, we should know if there's influenza in our food."

Watch the video above to see a black light demonstration of how easily germs can spread.

He said his bill is not in response to the recent Chipotle health scare, but rather a few workers in his House district who have said they've had to decide between working sick and getting paid or staying home and risk their bills and their jobs.

"When there's an economic incentive to show up to work sick, it can endanger the health of all of us," said Ulibarri. "I've followed this issue and received some information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which indicated in fact, most of the major food outbreaks are due to sick employees, not listeria or E.coli."

Denver7 checked with CDPHE and was told that about half of all food-borne outbreaks are caused by Norovirus and not by E.coli, Listeria or other bacterial infections.

"It's very easy for illness to be spread through a worker who's ill," said Brian Hlavacek, Environment Health Director for Tri-County Health Department, which covers Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties. "Certainly it's a problem that sometimes workers often work while ill."

The department actually provides restaurants with a flow chart showing when an ill employee should stay home from work and when they could potentially work in a restricted manner.

"It can be quite easy, as far as handling food and utensils and that sort of thing, to spread germs," said Hlavacek.

Besides not working when ill, the key to prevent the spread of germs is proper handwashing. The health department recommends proper lathering, scrubbing and even suggests singing the alphabet song twice.