Food & Drink

Suit says woman was assaulted and fired for reporting food safety violations at Publix

A lawsuit by a former longtime Publix employee claims she was discriminated against, physically assaulted, then fired after she pointed out food safety violations in the store's meat department.

Tracy Aiken's lawsuit, filed in Leon County Circuit Court on April 29, says she saw other employees at Publix's Southwood Village store in Tallahassee changing the sell-by dates to keep meat products such as Porterhouse steaks and pre-packaged chicken products on the shelves too long. Also, she says she saw meat trimmings improperly labeled as "ground chuck."

Aiken also claims some co-workers didn't clean the meat cutter when it was used for different meats, a violation of federal code that can lead to food-borne illnesses.

The reaction described by the lawsuit included a co-worker telling her to "Get the f--- out of my face" and a manager turning constantly critical while giving her one raise, 25 cents an hour.

On Dec. 23, 2016, the suit says a co-worker pushed Aiken to the floor of the meat department, and when she complained, management suspended her later that day. She was fired when she returned from suspension. When she came back to pick up a prescription a week later, she learned she was banned from the store as a customer.

The lawsuit says Publix violated whistleblower protection laws, allowed retaliation and gender-based discrimination. Monday's amended complaint removed racial discrimination from the violation list on the original filing.

A Publix spokesman said the company can't comment on pending litigation.

Aiken began working at Publix in September 2001 and at the Southwood Village Publix in May 2004.

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There are many numbers and dates on the foods, drugs, cosmetics, and other products we use every day. When unsafe products must be removed from the market, these numbers and dates can help identify them quickly.