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McDonald’s fires employee for reporting gas leak to fire department

By Mason White 1:23 PM June 20, 2014
McDonald’s meal illustration 

By: Anika Rao
An employee at McDonald’s was fired for reporting a gas leak to the fire department, the New York State Attorney General’s Office said in a statement.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a settlement with Warrenone, Inc., a franchisee operating four McDonald’s restaurants in Wayne and Monroe counties.

The settlement resolves the Attorney General’s investigation into the illegal firing of an employee at Warrenone’s Lyons, New York location.

An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office found that a part-time minimum-wage employee of the restaurant made multiple attempts to report a gas leak. When his supervisors did not address the situation, he reported the leak to the Lyons Fire Department.

Responding firefighters and local law enforcement both confirmed that there was a gas leak, and the store was temporarily closed to the public for the night. While the firefighters were at the restaurant investigating the leak, two supervisors informed the employee that he was fired.

New York Labor Law Section 740 forbids employers from retaliating against an employee for reporting to a supervisor or to the authorities when an employer violates a law that poses a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. The public health and safety issue reported here – a gas leak – involved a violation of provisions of the New York State Fire Code, among other things.

“It’s outrageous that an employee would be terminated for contacting the local authorities about a serious safety risk. He should be thanked, not fired,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Workers who try to protect the public and their fellow employees, deserve protection, and the state should have their back.”

As a result of this settlement, the company will pay $10,000 in restitution, which constitutes approximately one and one half years’ worth of front pay in lieu of reinstatement for the discharged employee. Lost compensation was already obtained through enforcement by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Labor Law Section 740 does not provide for additional liquidated damages.

In addition to payment of restitution, Warrenone will create and implement procedures for complaints, and investigation of complaints, regarding health and safety in its restaurants. Warrenone will also report quarterly to the Attorney General about any health and safety complaints, and about the management’s response to those complaints.