A former manager of the Casey’s General Store in Huxley is suing the company, saying she was fired for calling police when she was concerned about a co-worker who was later convicted of killing her newborn twins.
Teresa Anderson, of Huxley, claims she was fired in retaliation for calling police when she was concerned co-worker Jackie Burkle was pregnant and “something was wrong,” according to a lawsuit filed Dec. 18 in Polk County District Court in Des Moines.
Burkle, 22 at the time, later pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder for the death of the babies, and was sentenced to two 50-year prison terms to be served concurrently.
Anderson was store manager of the Casey’s in Huxley in January 2012 when she called Huxley police chief Mark Pote and asked him to check on Burkle. Anderson told police she thought Burkle had looked pregnant two days before, but no longer did.
After talking to police, Anderson called her area supervisor, Charlotte Miller, who reportedly told her not to call the police. The next day, after learning that Burkle had given birth to twins and they were both dead, Anderson called her district supervisor, Dan Gross. According to the lawsuit, Gross told Anderson she was “too emotional and too maternal.”
Anderson said she asked Gross if she could have a staff meeting to let the employees know what was happening and to “let them know they had support from the corporate office.”
Gross told her “this was not a Casey’s issue” and not to have the meeting, the lawsuit said.
Anderson said she also contacted Casey’s human resources and was told again that this was “not a Casey’s issue.”
The lawsuit alleges that on approximately Jan. 10, 2012, Gross and Miller reprimanded Anderson for calling Casey’s corporate human resources and told her “they could have fired her a couple times if they had wanted to in the past.”
Also on Jan. 10, 2012, Burkle was arrested and charged with two counts of murder for the death of her twin babies. Police found the bodies of the babies in the trunk of Burkle’s car.
According to the lawsuit, Anderson was “too emotionally distraught to work,” and took a two-week leave from work. She returned to work at the Huxley Casey’s Jan. 30, 2012, where she was fired a few hours later.
Anderson, represented by Des Moines attorney Jill Zwagerman, claims she was fired in retaliation for her involvement in the investigation and Burkle’s arrest, and because the company “wanted to create distance between Casey’s and the negative press associated with Ms. Burkle’s actions,” the lawsuit said.
Anderson is suing Casey’s, Miller and Gross, arguing her decision to report her co-workers’s suspected criminal activity was protected by state public policy. She is seeking damages for lost wages, emotional distress and mental anguish.
A phone message left for William Walljasper, Casey’s Senior VP & Chief Financial Officer, Monday, Dec. 30 was not returned.