At many jobs, an employee who alerted management to a dangerous safety issue would be praised, or even promoted. However, for a McDonald’s employee in upstate New York, the opposite was true. The man repeatedly reported a suspected gas leak to supervisors, but was ignored. He ended up calling the local fire department himself, and was fired by superiors for his actions.
Following an investigation by state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, a $10,000 settlement was reached, and that amount will be paid to the McDonald’s employee. It’s the equivalent of 18 months of minimum-wage pay for the part-time worker.
The incident happened on April 8, 2013, and after the employee reported the problem, firefighters and law enforcement personnel confirmed that there was indeed a gas leak, and it was severe enough to close the McDonald’s restaurant for the rest of the night. While investigators were on site to check out the issue, a pair of supervisors told the whistleblowing employee he no longer had a job.
That McDonald’s location, as well as three others in the area, is owned and operated by a franchisee called Warrenone Inc. Despite attempts to reach the franchise owners to ask them about the situation with the McDonald’s employee, they were not available to comment. The same was true for the fire chief of the department that handled this gas leak case.
Under New York labor laws, employers may not retaliate against an employee from making a report to a supervisor or to local authorities if the employer is found to be in violation of a law that poses a substantial and specific danger to the health and safety of the public. In this case, the gas leak violated the New York State Fire Code.
Speaking out about the settlement for the McDonald’s employee in a published statement, the Attorney General said, “Workers who try to protect the public and their fellow employees deserve protection, and the state should have their back.”
In addition to paying restitution for the McDonald’s employee, the franchise location must create and implement a system for making and investigating health and safety complaints in its restaurants, and then make quarterly reports to the Attorney General, both about the complaints received, and how they were handled by management personnel.
Although the McDonald’s employee did not get his job back, at least he will receive a handsome payment for doing something that should’ve been rewarded instead of reprimanded, and that’s a step in the right direction.
[Image Credit: The Positive]