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Does Chipotle really make employees see a nurse to determine if they're hungover?

Reps for the brand say that the comments were taken out of context.
Chipotle restaurant in New York City
Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Earlier this week, news spread that Chipotle makes its employees see a nurse to determine if they're hungover. The Mexican fast-food chain is now responding, telling TODAY that, while employees have the option to see a nurse when they're sick, the comments were misinterpreted.

On Wednesday, Business Insider reported that CEO Brian Niccol said at a conference, "We have nurses on call, so that if you say, ‘Hey, I’ve been sick,’ you get the call into the nurse."

"The nurse validates that it’s not a hangover — you’re really sick — and then we pay for the day off to get healthy again."

But reps for the brand say that the comments were taken out of context.

"Chipotle ensures that all employees are healthy so that they can prepare real food and serve it to our customers," Kerry Bridges, Vice President of Food Safety, told TODAY in an emailed statement. "When an employee reports certain symptoms to their manager, the clinical nurse team at Zero Hour Health will follow up with those employees to understand their illness. Not all ill employees talk to a nurse, but all Chipotle employees receive paid sick leave from their first day of employment to use when they are not feeling well.”

So, for example, if an employee calls their manager with a headache, they will not speak to a nurse. But if they report potentially contagious symptoms that could be spread through the handling of food, the company makes sure a nurse follows up with that employee.

Chipotle's commitment to ensuring that its eateries are safe, germ-free spots comes a few years after norovirus had sickened 120 students at Boston College who ate at a local outpost of the chain. Norovirus is a fast-spreading airborne bug that causes gastrointestinal distress and usually lasts for a few days.

"The procedures we're putting in place to eat are so above industry norms that we are going to be the safest place to eat,'' founder Steve Ells said at the time. "It's a really tough time. I have to say I'm sorry for the people that got sick. They're having a tough time. I feel terrible about that, and we're doing a lot to rectify this and make sure it doesn't happen again."

The crisis in Boston came on the heels of an E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle across nine states that sickened more than 50 people at the end of October 2015. The company closed 43 restaurants in Oregon and Washington after health officials discovered most of the people sickened in the outbreak had eaten at Chipotle.

Hopefully Chipotle is putting in the work necessary to guarantee that its staff (and therefore its customers) are the healthiest they can be — instead of (rather terrifyingly) making sure its employees aren't faking it.