All employees who prepare, store, or serve food at dining establishments across the 5Cs will be required to get a food handler certification by Jan. 1, 2012, according to a law passed in 2010 that came into effect Sept. 7. While all 5C dining halls are in the process of certifying their staff, no student-run establishment except the Motley Coffee House at Scripps has taken action toward complying with the law, which could render their staff illegally-employed if no changes are made before next semester.
The law, which is being enforced by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, requires all food handlers to be certified with a California Food Handler Card within 30 days of hire. According to the California Restaurant Association (CRA), the self-described voice for the California food service industry, the law is designed to reduce the potential for food-borne illnesses.
According to Motley Coffeehouse General Manager Leah Munsey SC ’12, the Motley began requiring its employees to become certified food handlers after it learned that Malott Commons, the Scripps dining hall, was requiring certification of its employees. The Motley is the only 5C food service establishment employing students that has begun to seek compliance with the new law.
“I was notified this summer by our faculty advisor that Malott Commons is now requiring their employees to have these licenses, and after looking into it [we] decided that Motley fell into the same category,” Munsey said. According to Munsey, the management team at the Motley began preparing for compliance with the new law before the semester began, and a training workshop is scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 22.
Student employees at Pomona’s Coop Fountain, on the other, said they were unaware of the new requirement. When asked if he had heard about any additional required training, Coop Fountain employee Rob Knickerbocker PO ’15 replied simply, “Nope.” A manager at the Coop Fountain, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also said she was surprised to hear about the new requirement.
“Usually we are pretty on top of things, but I haven’t heard anything about this,” the manager said.
One question facing employees and managers at 5C student-run food establishments is how the cost of the certifications will be covered. According to the text of the new law, the cost of getting certification will be no more than ten dollars per employee, but the law does not require employers to cover the cost. According to managers at the Motley, which is hosting a training workshop for certification, none of its employees will be expected to cover the cost.
Manager of Retail Services Brenda Schmit, who oversees the Coop Fountain, said she had heard about the new certification requirement but was unsure when Coop Fountain employees would be trained or how the cost would be covered. She said it is likely that the Coop Fountain will require employees to complete the course online—as opposed to in-person, as the Motley is doing—over winter break.
“The online class is only ten dollars per person, and our students are so much more used to doing things online, it just seems like that’s the way to go,” Schmit said.
“There’s a good chance the Coop Fountain would pay for it,” she added. “It’s only ten dollars, so it’s not very much, or we could even split it. I don’t know; we’ll come up with something fair.” With 60 to 70 current employees at the Coop Fountain and new hires joining each semester, the bill could run up to several hundred dollars per year if the school covers the cost of certification.
The online course and examination, which can be taken through one of three government-approved certification companies, takes about two hours to complete, after which the certification card is immediately printable. Test-takers must earn a score of 70 percent or better to pass, after which their certification card will be valid for three years.
According to Mauricio Nunez, a Specialist for the L.A. Country Department of Public Health, the law is not being enforced until Jan. 1 so that employers have a chance to notify their employees about the newly required training.
“Right now we are just reminding operators of facilities that their employees need to have food handlers’ cards and they are required to have them as soon as possible,” Nunez said. “As of now, facilities will only receive verbal reminders but those will become written mandates by January 1.”
Nunez did not say what the consequences would be for failing to comply with the new requirement the Jan. 1 deadline.