Both former and current employees at two locations of Dick’s Drive-In recently submitted formal complaints with the Department of Labor & Industries. The five separate filings — copies of which Eater Seattle viewed — detail a series of workplace issues at the Queen Anne and Capitol Hill restaurants, including allegations that managers disregarded COVID measures. They also allege that the restaurants were an unsafe and unsanitary work environment in general, with moldy refrigerators that weren’t washed regularly and an electric heater left in a pool of water.
According to the employees who filed the complaints, managers at each location failed to adequately enforce face mask requirements by either looking the other way when some workers took them off in break areas or failing to turn away maskless guests. “I have been instructed not to turn away maskless customers or push them to wear masks, but rather to serve customers faster to avoid prolonged contact,” one complaint alleges.
Workers at both Dick’s locations also accused the restaurants of disregarding social distancing measures, noting that the tight quarters in the kitchens make it nearly impossible to keep at least six-feet of separation between workers. The employees claim there was no adequate training, signs, or instructions on how to prevent the spread of COVID in the workplace, and that they weren’t permitted to leave their work stations to wash hands. One employee at the Capitol Hill outpost claims that the gloves he was given as protection melted due to heat from the restaurant’s grill and resulted in burns.
A former employee at the Queen Anne location alleges that management failed to properly isolate workers who were awaiting COVID test results, pressuring them to show up for shifts, and on multiple occasions during the pandemic, the worker claims managers came into the restaurant while visibly sick.
In addition to these alleged COVID violations, there were a number of sanitation complaints. Several employees claim that the refrigerators at both locations were contaminated with mold and that they had to clean them without being offered proper equipment. At the Broadway location, one worker claims an electrical heater was often placed in the middle of a pool of water near the register.
“We only received notice of the complaint this afternoon,” says a spokesperson for Dick’s Drive-In. “We take the safety of our employees and our customers very seriously. We are currently investigating this and will share more information as soon as we can. Our rating with the King County Health Department is excellent and that includes our COVID safety protocols for employees and customers.”
Dick’s has been a Seattle institution for decades, starting out in Wallingford, before a gradual expansion. Recently, it introduced its first-ever food truck, which has been making the rounds to different neighborhoods since last fall. The chain also recently announced plans to expand to Bellevue later in 2021, with its first Eastside outpost since the early ’70s. It will be the franchise’s eighth restaurant in the region.