A disgruntled ex–Shake Shack employee has filed a lawsuit alleging that one of the chain’s New York locations repeatedly turned a blind eye to workplace-safety violations, and that he got fired for asking his manager about this. Derrick Via worked for the company from 2012 to 2017, and transferred to the Fulton Center location after it opened in 2016. According to his suit, he showed up and “immediately” started noticing “a number of serious and dangerous health and safety violations.”
He ticks off a few of them in the lawsuit, though the worst would seem to be management’s alleged “ongoing policy” of allowing “visibly sick” employees to prep and serve food to customers — a group that includes a lot of commuters, as the location’s in the retail complex connected to the Fulton Center subway station. Via also claims that the store was routinely unclean, that staff never received any training on food allergies, and that when an employee once got severely burned by hot water, the location didn’t even investigate the incident.
Via claims that he “repeatedly” raised concerns with his manager, “yet no one cared.” Or at least, didn’t care about fixing them: He allegedly did get punished for mentioning them. At first, it was supposedly just mildly annoying stuff, like being given “corrective warnings” for arriving a few minutes late. But eventually, the mistreatment worsened, Via claims, until he was ultimately fired. “Just days after Mr. Via sent an email complaining about health and safety violations, Shake Shack summarily terminated his employment before his scheduled meeting with HR could take place,” the complaint claims. That HR meeting had been requested by Via so he could ask for a transfer.
Officially, Shake Shack says its grounds for terminating Via were that he stole another employee’s phone, but he says all he did was remove the phone “from public view, pursuant to Shake Shack policy,” and then return it later that day. Shake Shack called the lawsuit “without merit” in a statement, and said that “industry-leading food handling and workplace safety procedures” are in place at all of its locations. Via has moved into a career as a fitness instructor, but his lawsuit seeks a pretty hefty $1 million in damages from the chain.