In April, the North Carolina Division of Public Health adopted 2009 federal Food and Drug Administration rules with regard to restaurant, food truck and related food service businesses. The new rules take effect on September 1, 2012, and will have a significant impact on food service industry employers in North Carolina.
The new Food Code replaces less strict North Carolina rules. The main change affecting employers will be increased requirements that employees with potentially contagious diseases be sent home. The new rules provide possible claims for employees who allege that they were terminated after refusing to work while sick. If accurate, such claims could form the basis for a wrongful discharge claim. Employers concerned over possible employee abuse of this requirement should consider adopting strict medical certification policies for employee absences due to illness.
The rules will also require that most restaurants have an employee trained in food safety processes (commonly known as ServSafe training) on premises during all business hours. Current rules only require that one manager receive such training. This rule could increase either employee training costs or labor expenses necessary to make certain that the restaurant is staffed in accordance with this new requirement.
The Food Code rules will be enforced by local county health agencies. Violations can result in downgrading of inspection scores, and in extreme cases, closing of restaurants.