Viral videos expose companies online

Experts say alarming footage is good for consumers

Author: Matt Papaycik, Producer, mpapaycik@wkmg.com
Published On: Jul 22 2013 11:03:54 PM EDT   Updated On: Jul 22 2013 11:56:33 PM EDT
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PORT ORANGE, Fla. -

Earlier this month, Local 6 showed you video of a Golden Corral worker in Port Orange, claiming his company stored raw meat and vegetables next to dumpsters.

These days, we're seeing more videos like that showing up online. And food safety experts say, they hope the footage keeps coming.

In fact, all you need is a smartphone and a social media account to be an online whistleblower.

In the Golden Corral video, Brandon Huber shows how baby back ribs, raw hamburger meat, even gravy and green beans were hidden next to dumpsters in the sweltering heat.

"I don't feel that this is right," says Huber. "Someone could die because of this."

That kind of concern is forcing other fast food workers to call their companies out online.

In one video posted on YouTube, a Jimmy John's employee confronts his bosses, saying it's unfair that they don't offer paid sick time.

"I hope you guys feel ashamed of yourselves," the worker says. "I'm just disgusted, and I feel disgusted."

In another video on YouTube, a worker at Wendy's in New York takes us behind the scenes, showing holes in the floor, loose wires, and dirty conditions.

"Those are buns, that's black mold," the worker says as he swings the camera around.

"The consumer wants to know, and I think one way or another they're gonna find out," says Larry Lynch, the President of the National Registry Of Food Safety Professionals, which is based in Orlando.

Lynch helps create the food safety guidelines you see in restaurants and grocery stores across the state.

He says that footage like the Golden Corral video are actually good for consumers.

"I think when the public learns more about bad practices of any kind, I don't think it hurts," says Lynch. "I see firsthand what's going on and I can make a clearer decision on where I want to eat."

Thanks to smartphones and social media, that decision is easier than ever.

"Videos will get people to pay attention pretty quickly," says Carlos Leach, an employment attorney at Morgan & Morgan in Orlando.

He says workers need to be careful, because you could face serious consequences if you expose your company on social media.

"We don't have enough body of law right now to outline what is a violation, what is proper, and what is improper," says Leach.

So legally, how are you protected?

Under Florida's Whistleblower Law, your boss can't retaliate against you if you file a complaint against them in writing, or if you refuse to do something that breaks a federal or state law, rule, or regulation.

In the case of our Golden Corral video, Leach says that Brandon Huber did the right thing by revealing a potential health violation.

"We'll see continued posting of videos, pictures, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram," says Leach. "You'll continue to see the same thing. This is a huge issue right now across America."

But before you tweet or post a video about your company, Leach says you should talk to your manager first, and get your complaint in writing.

Then, if nothing is done to fix the problem, social media may be your next move.

It's also important to point out that Brandon Huber is now on paid leave during the Golden Corral investigation. The manager at that restaurant, meanwhile, was fired.

Golden Corral issued the following statement to Local 6 on Monday:

 “Mr. Huber contacted a Golden Corral area manager shortly after he discovered the food storage situation. The area manager immediately informed the local restaurant management team and, approximately one hour later, Mr. Huber and other employees destroyed the food.  It was never served to customers and the manager responsible for the food storage situation was terminated in accordance with Golden Corral policies.

 Though he was well aware that the situation had been handled according to company policies and practices, several days later, Mr. Huber posted the video to YouTube.  The video was a partial reporting of the facts and did not include information that Mr. Huber alerted management and that the food was destroyed and never served to customers.

 Golden Corral Corporation and, its franchisee, MetroCorral Partners, are fully committed to maintaining high standards of food quality, sanitation and guest experience. “