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N.Y.: Employee Fired for Reporting Gas Leak Gets $10,000

By Rita Zeidner  7/22/2014
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After firing an employee for reporting a gas leak to the local fire department, a McDonald’s franchisee in Upstate New York has agreed to pay the worker $10,000. The June 18, 2014, settlement resolves an investigation by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. 

An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office found that on April 8, 2013, a part-time minimum-wage employee at a McDonald’s in Lyons, N.Y. made multiple attempts to report a gas leak. When his supervisors did not address the situation, he reported the leak to his local fire department. Responding firefighters and local law enforcement confirmed that there was a gas leak and closed the restaurant for the night. While the firefighters were at the restaurant investigating the leak, two supervisors informed the employee that he was fired.

The restaurant is operated by Warrenone Inc., a franchisee that operates four McDonald’s in Wayne and Monroe counties.

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.

In lieu of reinstating the employee, Warrenone will pay $10,000 in restitution – the equivalent of about 18 month’s front pay. The employee received lost wages through enforcement by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in May 2013. 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.

Rita Zeidner is a freelance business writer and former senior writer for HR Magazine.
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