OLEAN, N.Y. (CBS Connecticut) – A local woman says she was fired from her job at McDonald’s after she donated food to firefighters working in freezing conditions.
The former employee, 23-year-old Heather Levia, reportedly paid for the donated goods. The effort did not save her job at the fast food restaurant, however.
The trouble began last week, when Levia – a single mother with two jobs who is pursuing a nursing school degree – began her morning shift as the manager at the McDonald’s location. Several local fire departments had been working in below-freezing weather to put out a house fire at the time.
After they finished battling the blaze, Levia said several firefighters from Olean ordered breakfast sandwiches and hash browns. Rather than charging them, she paid the $38 total out of her own pocket.
She told WIVB of her reasoning, “Just because I appreciate everything they do.
Later on in her shift, another fire department placed a food order totaling $70. At that point. Levia reached out to her supervisor for permission to donate food to them as well, claiming to the station that the McDonald’s location had done so in the past.
He refused, however, so she and her other coworkers pooled their resources and paid for the larger meal.
The firefighters learned of the generosity of Levia and her coworkers, and reportedly complained to the supervisor about making her and other workers at the McDonald’s feel obligated to pay the bill through his actions.
Her boss reportedly said that she “opened a whole bee’s nest” with the gesture. Soon after that exchange, she was fired.
The official reason given for her dismissal was that she swore at her supervisor. Though she confesses to using the term “freaking” while discussing the matter with him, she denies using any strong language that was directed at him.
“It’s just wrong. I wish the communities would change and help each other out,” she said to WIVB. “I wish that things didn’t have to be the way they are. And if losing my job is going to speak out to the community, then that’s what it’s going to do.”
Firefighters in Allegany came to her defense.
“It was a shock. We certainly regret the fact she lost her job. We can’t speak on corporate policy because we don’t know the background of it,” Allegany Fire media officer Gordon Scott was quoted as saying. “It was a sad affair because a gentleman lost a home. And it’s even worse because we know now that this gal apparently lost her job because of it.”
In response to Levia’s account of the matter, Olean McDonald’s owner Tom Meyers released a statement to WIVB.
“The Meyers Organization has always valued the employees who serve our customers every day. We likewise continue to be an ardent supporter of our police and fire departments, along with other first responders,” the statement read.”They are always welcome in our restaurants, and we will continue to support them in the future.”
It continued, “We are aware that certain allegations have been made concerning the reasons for Heather Levia’s termination. Out of respect for Ms. Levia and her privacy, it would not be appropriate to comment in detail on the reasons she is no longer employed by our organization. Still, it should be pointed out that the allegations are absolutely not true. We would never penalize an employee for showing appropriate gratitude for the work of our firefighters.”