At 58, William Bisek decided that he wanted to run his own Taco Bell. He had experience in restaurants, owning pubs in Centerville and Fridley for more than two decades, which left him with an outsized concern for food safety.
In January he was hired by Border Foods -- a New Hope Taco Bell franchisee with more than 50 restaurants in Minnesota -- as a manager-in-training at the Columbia Heights location.
The training period was a sham, says Bisek’s lawyer, Peter Christian. Instead of being groomed to become a general manager who would one day run his own restaurant, Bisek was used for day-to-day grunt labor, making tacos.
Soon, he began to notice food safety problems, according to a whistleblower lawsuit Bisek filed against Border Foods. These included mold growing in the water supply tank, mold covering the soda dispensing spouts that was “green, gooey, with a foul odor and clearly contaminating the beverages,” expired meat and tortillas served to customers, and the storing of a toilet brush and plunger “often dripping with used tissue paper and toilet water” near the front register, where customers placed their orders.
Bisek repeatedly reported these problems to his manager, according to the suit. When management seemed not to care, he began to document the violations in a store log mandated by Taco Bell corporate.
The day after he put it all in writing, an area manager fired him. When he asked for a written explanation, human resources responded he was fired “for failure to meet performance expectations during training,” according to the suit.
Border Foods did not respond to requests for comment.
“What is particularly compelling to me here is that he was terminated the day after he reported the violations,” Christian says. “And of course the fact that these violations are so shocking and appalling, they’re so clear, from our perspective.”