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Upstate fast-food worker gets back wages after unlawful firing


Letting employees go is not as simple as handing them pink slips. Every dismissal must be for a legitimate reason, and the termination should not violate any labor policies. Retaliation is never a valid reason for firing an employee anywhere in the country, including New York.

This fact was evident in a recent case in upstate New York when a McDonald's franchise dismissed an employee after he addressed a concern on his own that could have otherwise resulted in a disaster. According to New York's Attorney General, the part-time worker detected a gas leak in the restaurant and attempted to notify his supervisors. However, when they did not address the leak, the employee called the fire department. After firefighters verified there was a leak, the restaurant was closed for the night. While the gas leak was being inspected, the employee was fired by two supervisors.

The Attorney General called the firing "outrageous" and added that the employee should have been thanked and not fired. His office investigated the incident and determined that it constituted a wrongful termination. Eventually, the owner of the McDonald's franchise decided to pay the employee $10,000 to make up for the year and a half's worth of salary the employee lost because of the unlawful firing. He was also reinstated.

Retaliation against an employee who reports a public safety risk is considered a violation of New York's labor laws. Besides its settlement with the worker, the restaurant was also ordered to report to the Attorney General's office how safety and health measures were implemented and how management handles such concerns.

If any New Yorker loses a job because he or she reports unsafe work conditions or for any reason that a worker suspects is unlawful, the employee can take legal action to seek restitution and possible reinstatement.

Source: Syracuse.com, "McDonald's restaurant to pay $10,000 to employee fired for reporting gas leak: In business," Rick Moriarty, June 18, 2014

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