Baskin-Robbins workers harassed, business crippled over hepatitis A

Local News

The Baskin-Robbins at Waikele Center used to be the busiest in the state.

Now, it’s the emptiest.

“That’s why we only have one person working now, because it’s really that slow,” Baskin-Robbins employee Erika Espiritu said.

On July 12, the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) announced that anyone who ate at Baskin-Robbins at Waikele Center between June 17 and July 3, 2016 (actual dates: June 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 27, 30, and July 1 and 3), may have been exposed to hepatitis A.

That’s because one of the workers there caught the virus.

Since then, business has dropped 75 percent.

“The toughest part is having to take in all the harassment because I worked the — I might tear up — I worked the next morning and people would call and say mean stuff, and you just have to take it in, because you can’t control what people think,” Espiritu said.

She said people have told them they want to sue the store, or that they want the store to pay for their family to get vaccinated.

“‘You shouldn’t even be working here or even touching the ice cream because we don’t know if you have it,’ and we advise them DOH would never open a store if it was health hazardous,” Espiritu said.

In fact, state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said the store is “not at fault. They should not be looked down upon. This could happen to any food establishment out there.”

“We don’t deserve to be harassed or slandered because it’s not fair. We didn’t ask for our employee to have the infection, you know,” Espiritu said.

The worker who got infected with hepatitis A hasn’t come back to work yet, and all of the other workers at the Baskin-Robbins have since tested negative.

“There was only two of us that got cleared right away because we didn’t have any cross hours or overlapping hours to be working with the person, so I’ve taken a lot for the past two weeks,” Espiritu said.

The DOH isn’t saying the Baskin-Robbins worker actually infected others, but rather as a precaution, it wants anyone who ate there to get vaccinated for hepatitis A if they haven’t already done so. That’s the best way to prevent getting the virus.

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