A food services company fired an in-house health inspector after he photographed poor conditions of the kitchen and storage area at a Northampton County, Pa., college, according to a federal suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Gary Heller, of Easton, Pa., seeks compensatory damages for back pay and interest, plus reinstatement with the same seniority status at Bon Appetit Management Co.
According to the complaint, Heller worked in a supervisory capacity for Sodexo Campus Services at Lafayette College in Easton until June 2013, when Bon Appetit took over the contract to provide dining services for the college. Heller maintained his position for Bon Appetit and was given additional duties in August 2013, including monitoring and auditing the company's food safety practices in accordance with FDA regulations.
The claim says that on Sept. 1, 2013, Heller photographed unsanitary, disorderly and otherwise hazardous conditions in the Lafayette College kitchens maintained and operated by Bon Appetit.
According to the complaint, the infractions included dirty coolers, uncovered, unlabeled and undated food, raw products stored above cooked products, onions stored on the floor, rotting fruit and more. The plaintiff says such conditions were created and persisted since Bon Appetit took over food service for Lafayette College.
The complaint says that the photographs were emailed to Heller's direct managers on Sept. 1, 2013, and five days later he was suspended from his duties, then fired after another five days. The defendants claim that Heller shared the photos with outside parties, a charge that Heller denies.
He claims that the termination was in retaliation for his reporting of the unsafe conditions in the kitchens, a violation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Heller's loss of employment has left him unable to pay for necessary medical treatment and has caused him to suffer mental pain and anguish, the complaint says.
The plaintiff is represented by attorneys from Littner, Deschler & Littner in Bethlehem, Pa.
The federal case ID is 5:14-cv-06209-LS.