A former food service worker has filed a whistleblower complaint against food service giant Aramark. She claims the company is dishing out bad food in Michigan’s prisons. Aramark has a $145 million contract with the state.
According to published reports, Amy McVay was hired last year by Aramark to work in the Gus Harrison Correctional Center. She worked there until last week. She claims she was fired for speaking out about unsanitary conditions inside the prison and because she spoke out about suspected overbilling by Aramark. The company says her allegations are “another example in the long-running series of manufactured attacks against our company.” A company spokesperson told the Detroit Free Press that, “We stand by our food safety record … and will not comment on allegations from disgruntled former employees.”
McVay claims the company serves raw meat; served hamburger patties that had been dropped on the prison floor, changed expiration dates on food and is suspected of inflating meal counts (Aramark is paid in part on the number of meals served). When she observed meat dropped on the floor a supervisor said to “put it back in the pan” and that the inmates would never know.
The Free Press performed their on depth investigation into the Aramark contract using documents gleaned from freedom of information requests. They claim the Aramark contract has suffered many problems including “sanitation problems, incidents of Aramark employees smuggling in drugs or other contraband, and Aramark workers getting too friendly or engaging in sex acts with inmates.”
McVay filed her whistleblower complaint with OSHA on October 22nd. Unfortunately, Michigan has yet to extend their state equivalent of a False Claims Act to all state contratcs. Michigan’s false claim law is limited to Medicare.
The federal False Claims Act is the oldest and most powerful whistleblower statute in the United States. Dating back to the Civil War, the law allows whistleblowers to file lawsuits on behalf of the government and collect up to 30% of whatever the government collects from the wrongdoer. It also allows triple damages meaning damage awards can quickly add up.
Because it is a federal law, the False Claims Act does not apply to people or corporations that defraud state or local governments. 29 states have their own false claims law but many only apply to Medicaid. Unfortunately for Ms. McVay, there is no Michigan state law available to pay awards. Michigan does have a law that prevents whistleblower retaliation, however.
We have long suspected that private prisons, prison health care contracts and prison food service contracts are subject to fraud and abuse. The Aramark case is one in which we will follow closely. Last year the company reported $13.95 billion in revenues.
If McVay’s allegations are true, we hope she is well compensated on her retaliation claims. Whistleblowers are true heroes. They stand up to fraud and corruption when others look the other way.
Think you may have a whistelblower claim? We want to speak with you. Our false claims act lawyers have brought several, billion claims as well as much smaller claims. All inquiries are kept in complete confidence. For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731 (direct)