Local restaurant owner gives employees a shot at staying healthy

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on January 17, 2013 at 6:37 PM

PLANO -- There was a long line at the McDonald's on Spring Creek Parkway in Plano Thursday morning, but not for the famous fries.

Large companies often offer free flu shots to employees to save on worker productivity. It is not so common at smaller businesses. And, it wasn't the main reason Chuck O'Reilly decided to provide flu shots for his restaurant employees during the flu outbreak.

"I can go ahead, protect all of our employees, and indirectly, make it safer for our guests because of the interactions," O'Reilly said. "And we just see hundreds and hundreds of interactions every day."

O'Reilly said after waiting in line two hours recently for a flu shot for himself, he began thinking of his shift employees, who likely didn't have the time or money to do the same. Most don't have insurance or Medicaid. Often workers don't have reliable transportation.

So, O'Reilly decided to hire a company to provide free flu vaccine for employees of his 17 restaurants, during three different on-site shot clinics.

The majority of the employees admit they have never had a flu shot. Many don't speak English. Most make near minimum wage. A flu shot could cost them three hours of wages they can ill-afford.

One employee awaiting vaccine is a mother of four. Another had recently emigrated to the United States. Karen Gonzalez, 18, is saving every penny.

"Yeah, because I'm earning money right now for college," Gonzalez said.

The McDonald's employees are required to wash their hands every hour -- not enough when dealing with countless germy hands and money. All the employees were grateful for this shot to stay healthy, and stay on the job.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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