Fired Michigan Prison Food Worker Files Whistleblower Suit

October 24, 2014

A fired Michigan prison food service worker has filed a whistleblower complaint, saying she lost her job for reporting falsified records and kitchen practices that endangered health and food safety.

Amy McVay, 25, who worked at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility near Adrian until she was fired on Oct. 14 for insubordination by Aramark Correctional Services, filed the complaint Wednesday with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“I started complaining to supervisors,” McVay said. “They said, ‘This is a prison; not a five-star restaurant.”’

Aramark spokeswoman Karen Cutler said the allegations are “another example in the long-running series of manufactured attacks against our company.”

“We stand by our food safety record … and will not comment on allegations from disgruntled former employees,” she said.

McVay, in an interview with the newspaper and in the complaint, said she was harassed and retaliated against for complaining about problems such as a lack of temperature monitoring in cooking and the serving of raw or undercooked meat.

McVay also said she complained about falsified records related to dishwater temperature and cleaning solution quality; the serving of meat that had been dropped on the floor; and the changing of dates on stored leftover food so it could be served after its throw-away date.

Philadelphia-based Aramark’s work and its three-year, $145 million contract with Michigan have been under scrutiny. Michigan fined the company $200,000 in August and there’s an independent monitor in place. The company has promised improvements.

Meanwhile, another former Aramark worker, Tiffany Ely, 38, who worked in the kitchen at Pugsley Correctional Facility near Kingsley until she quit June 16, told the Free Press that cooking temperature monitoring wasn’t done properly and dishwater requirements weren’t met.

Ely said she kept records of complaints she made through an Aramark employee hotline and to the company’s human resources department, but said “nothing ever changed.” The food practices upset Ely so much that “I was vomiting,” she said Wednesday. “I couldn’t take it anymore.”

Cutler said Aramark investigates every employee concern it receives.

Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the state, said “there are checks and balances in place to make certain that the food in Michigan correctional facilities are served at the proper temperature and in a clean and safe environment.”

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