Brooklyn pizza mainstay Roberta’s has temporarily closed both its Bushwick and Williamsburg locations after multiple employees at the Bushwick restaurant tested positive for COVID-19.
Management decided to close the Bushwick restaurant on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, in light of the positive cases, and proceeded to shut down the Williamsburg location two days later, on Friday. The decisions were made without prior warning to employees, Gothamist first reported.
Roberta’s management tells Eater that two employees at the Bushwick restaurant tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the Wednesday shutdown; since then, six employees in total have tested positive. According to the company, no employees at the Williamsburg location had tested positive for COVID-19, but they decided to shut down the secondary outpost “as an extra precautionary measure.” There is no set reopening date but according to a staff email, management hopes to start reopening “in phases” towards the end of this week.
In the Gothamist report, employees said that the way management has been handling communication around the positive tests and subsequent closures has been confusing and contradictory.
The situation boiled over on the holiday weekend, when 41 Roberta’s employees signed and emailed a letter to management on November 28 demanding more transparency, which Eater has obtained. “The lack of communication, inadequate COVID guidelines, and the blatant disregard for our overall health is only exacerbating our stress and fatigue,” the letter (printed in full below) reads.
The following day, the company’s director of operations sent an email to staffers, which Eater has reviewed, saying that each employee would have to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before returning to work — although the restaurant reopening dates had not yet been communicated.
Employees would be paid for time spent waiting to get a COVID-19 test, according to the email, as well as any costs occurred for the administration of the test. Furthermore, employees who were scheduled to work from November 25 to 30 were told they would still be paid their hourly wages while the restaurants remain shuttered.
The lack of clarity has left employees at the pizza shops concerned about their health and financial security. A Roberta’s employee, who requested anonymity to protect their job, said on November 30 that no one has been reimbursed yet for time spent getting tested for COVID-19, nor has it been clear how to file for reimbursement. “People have been tested multiple times at this point and waited for many hours and not been told how or who to talk to about being reimbursed for that time,” the employee says.
At 5:45 p.m. on November 30, the company’s director of operations sent out a second email, which Eater has reviewed, responding to specific queries that had been laid out in the employees’ letter to management. It gave guidance on how to receive payment for COVID-19 testing and the company confirmed that employees would continue to be paid through December 5.
“It’s great that they have answers now, but for the past few days, and even with this email, we’ve been so in the dark,” the employee tells Eater. They said that the answers seemed “hastily thought out” and staffers still had “many unanswered questions” about paychecks, schedule details, and health safety concerns.
Roberta’s has hired an antiviral cleaning company to disinfect both restaurants while the establishments are temporarily shuttered, the company says.
The full letter that Roberta’s employees sent to management over the weekend, which is now signed by 43 staffers, is below. The names have been redacted: