A former employee is suing homegrown New York burger chain Shake Shack, claiming the restaurant fired him for raising concerns over health and safety issues at the Financial District location. Derrick Via is seeking $1 million in damages.
According to the lawsuit, filed on Friday in Manhattan federal court, Via worked for the burger joint for five years and was promoted several times at various locations, the Post first reported. Once he started at the Fulton Transit Center location in September 2016, he noticed “a number of serious and dangerous health and safety violations,” including allowing “visibly sick” employees to work and handle food, “improper cleaning” of the kitchen and equipment, failure to train on food allergies, and more, the lawsuit — in full below — says.
Via claims he complained about the issue numerous times, and rather than address his concerns, “Shake Shack’s management began to retaliate against Mr. Via for complaining,” according to the suit. In January 2017, Via was fired for allegedly stealing a coworker’s phone. However, Via’s attorney says Via took the phone to remove it from view of customers, per an alleged policy, and returned it later that day.
Shake Shack tells the Post that the lawsuit is “without merit.” According to his attorney, Via plans to move forward regardless, seeking $1 million in damages, including “emotional distress and suffering.”
Update: A spokesperson tells Eater, “Shake Shack’s food handling and workplace safety procedures are the cornerstone of our company, and that’s because the wellbeing of our guests and our employees always comes first.”
The Department of Health most recently visited this location of Shake Shack last month, flagging it with two critical violations, including the presence of flies associated with sewage. Its health grade is pending, and it will need to be evaluated again. In August 2016, which is right before Via started working there, the outpost received an A rating from DOH.