A recent whistleblower lawsuit against the David Douglas School District near Portland, Oregon alleges that its high school was not engaging in proper food safety practices. The suit was filed by two of the district’s food service workers and a special education assistant at the school.
According to the plaintiffs, officials in the school district did nothing after the complainants brought up their concerns about the increasingly erratic behavior and worsening health of the school’s head cook. The workers also allege the head cook retaliated against them for talking about their concerns with management. When they reported this retaliation to administrators, including the district superintendent, they reportedly did not get a response. They are now seeking $250,000 in noneconomic damages and attorney’s fees.
The lawsuit alleges the retaliation initially began after a meeting of the kitchen staff in April 2012. At the meeting, the workers say they told the district’s nutritionist and a representative of their union about their concerns surrounding the worsening condition of the head cook and the effect her condition was having on the safety of the school’s food. They said the head cook regularly took long breaks, complained of physical pain and would not work full days because she was too exhausted.
Additionally, she would allegedly forget how long and at what temperature food had been cooking, would order too many ingredients (or forget to order them at all), would fail to notice certain health violations in food storage and preparation and would regularly make demeaning, inflammatory comments to kitchen staff members. Plaintiffs said they were threatened with being reassigned to a different post if they continued to raise any issues.
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