McDonald’s worker fired after paying firefighters’ tab

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OLEAN, NY — A single mother of twins says she was fired last week from her job as a McDonald’s manager in Olean, New York, after paying for the meals of several firefighters.

Heather Levia, 23, told HLN affiliate WIVB that she decided to take $83 from her own pocket to cover the cost of the 25 breakfast sandwiches “… because I appreciate everything they do.” The rescuers had just put out a house fire in subzero temperatures, she said.

When another fire department came in a little bit later and ordered $70 worth of food, Levia said she texted her boss and then called the corporate office to see if the company could cover the cost. But she was allegedly told no by both of them, even though she says they regularly pay for the meals of police officers.

Several of her co-workers decided to pitch in to cover the tab, according to WIVB. When word spread to the firefighters, Levia said, they called to complain to her boss because they thought the fast-food restaurant made her feel obligated to pay with her own money.

Levia said she was fired after her next shift. The reason she said her boss gave was that she cursed at a superior. Levia denied the claim, explaining to WIVB that “I did say this is ‘freaking’ ridiculous. But it was not implied to anybody.”

When reached by HLN, the local McDonald’s restaurant denied Levia’s allegations.

“We are aware that certain allegations have been made concerning the reasons for Heather Levia’s termination,” the restaurant said in a prepared statement. “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.”

The statement, which was sent on behalf of owner/operator Tom Meyers, also said that the 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. They are always welcome in our restaurants, and we will continue to support them in the future.”

The Allegany County Fire Department told WIVB that it was thankful for the gesture and that firefighters never expect free meals.

“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,” Gordon Scott, the media officer for the Allegany Fire Department, told WIVB. “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.”

Levia, who said she has already received several job offers after working eight years at McDonald’s, says the fast-food chain wrongly terminated her.

“I wish the communities would change and help each other out,” she told 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.”

20 comments

  • Bud

    This is just another case of McDonald’s reputation going down the drain. Too many things lately, and this does not help their cause. I’m sure we all realize, that they will not admit the stupidity of their mistake!!!

  • Ahvyaunna snow

    I also worked at mcdonalds and they tried to penalize me for feeding the homeless out of my own pocket. So I can believe that they fired her but it’s so unfair

  • Patti Law

    If you think about it…fireman get paid quite a bit more than a MacDonalds worker. While it is a nice gesture, they shouldn’t have accepted her offer! Now they feel badly and will probably raise money for her. I am all for people helping people and people showing kindness but a simple thank you would have served just as well.

    • John

      I’ve been a firefighter/EMT for 7 years. I make $600 a year. Not all firefighters make a paycheck off of it. But we also aren’t expecting people to do things like such. And yes, a simple thanks but no thanks might have been best.

      • Eric

        You really only make $600 a year or was that a typo? If so that’s unbelievable. If Justin Bieber can make millions of dollars dancing around in glitter pants singing crappy songs then our heroes should be paid just as well.

      • John

        No typo. $600 a year, and that’s mainly a reimbursement for ruined clothes etc. Sure, I’m on a volunteer dept. But, I still have all the state certifications. My point is, directed at Patti Law statement, NOT ALL firefighters make money. I would love to, but as of now….I don’t.

    • Dolo

      I agree. There are so many people that do just as important jobs as firefighters and police officers and low pay people should not feel obligated to pay for their food. They would soon go broke.
      A well meaning thank you is appropriate.

  • Pamela

    I dislike Mcdonalds more and more, that’s a poor way to operate a business. Ms. Levia was actually doing good PR for your restaurant, obviously none of you are smart enough to realize that. I already won’t touch your food other than fries. Now I don’t think I want those either. Sad so sad

  • Irwin Fletcher

    I stopped eating there quite some time ago. What gripes me, I’m a volunteer firefighter, we get paid per call, to pay for our gas and clothes we ruin, and we now have to pay taxes on that money. I never did it for the money, I never received anything the first 6 years I volunteered. It’s sad this woman lost her job. I hope that another restaurant offers her a better job.

  • Carol Watson

    Shame on McDonalds for making a bad decision. It would serve them right to be boycotted all over the world for a decision that was made in haste. I hope this decision gets over a million hits worldwide to get their attention!

  • Sheila

    This touches so many positive points. We need more examples of good will and as it was brought to my attention, someone lost a home and now a job. It could of read someone lost a home and someone thought making an effort to show empathy and bring out the positive by extending a helping hand by paying for their food…

    • Tater

      Probably was a big order alot of times when big orders are placed they will be called in to avoid causing any interruption in general operations for the wokers or other customers im not sure if that is the call you were referencing to but if so I believe thats why

  • Tater

    If everyone would follow by her example for just one day just imagine how amazing that would be I dont believe money should be the center of her heart felt deed

    • Dolo

      Don’t you think it is a little foolish for her,working at McDonalds,with twins, going to school etc. to pay for a whole crew of firefighters?
      Also maybe we should know the whole story before making assumptions.

  • Rick

    Yes Dolo I bet there is more to this story. Everyone is quick to jump to the rescue of this lady though we don’t know Mcdonalds side of the story.

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