Are Your Company Policies Bad for Business?
I read a story about Heather Levia, a 23-year-old McDonald’s worker who was recently fired for allegedly paying for some firefighters’ meals.
Yes, you read that correctly, Levia’s good deed didn’t offer her the same positive return on her investment.
As the story goes, Levia paid an $83 bill (a split with two other co-workers) for a group of firefighters after they came into the Olean, N.Y. fast-food establishment. The group had just finished fighting a house fire in freezing temperatures, the story said.
Obviously compassionate and appreciative of the work these men and women do, Levia felt compelled to cover the cost of their meals. After risking their lives to save others, getting a free meal is the least someone can do to show appreciation for firefighters’ roles; I get it.
But, Levia asked her manager if the food chain could cover another group of firefighters’ meals, to which he or she said it couldn’t. And according to the city’s local paper, after eight years of working for McDonald’s, Levia was fired during her next shift. She believes it was due to her “kindness.”
The newspaper writes:
I was told I was being fired for going against the wishes of McDonald’s as well has having my own opinion on not donating to the firefighters, she said. I was so caught off-guard by this. I’m very distraught that I would be fired over something like this. I was just trying to give back to the firefighters and they weren’t asking for much.
The McDonald’s owner said they were investigating the matter.
If Levia truly was fired for her act of kindness, I find this to be very unfortunate. But what’s even more unfortunate is that this seems to be a common occurrence.
A little research showed that employees being fired for “random acts of kindness” has happened multiple times, some even as recent as last year.
For example, Kristopher Oswald was fired from his Wal-Mart job in October 2013 after assisting a woman who was being assaulted. The worker, who had been with Wal-Mart for just seven weeks, told the local Detroit news station that his dismissal papers said he had violated company policy, although not detailing how.
And in December of last year, former Meijer employee David Bowers was fired after he helped put out a fire in a customer’s car.
“When the guy came in and said his dashboard was on fire I grabbed the fire extinguisher and I followed him outside and sure enough his dashboard was on fire,” Bowers said.
Thedailysheeple.com story also reported that Bowers said a supervisor had told him that his heart was in the right place, but his head wasn’t.
Levia, Oswald and Bowers each were allegedly dismissed for seemingly violating some type of company policy. But I wonder whether or not some company policies will actually end up harming the businesses?
People have already created a petition calling to reinstate Levia, and looking at the comments, many supporters are not very happy with McDonald’s actions. The same was true for WalMart; the company received so much backlash that it has offered to re-hire the fired employee.
If consumers see a “Good Samaritan” get “rewarded” via termination by his/her employer, those people are often left with a damaged image of the company and its brand. “Heroic” good deeds appeal to most people, and if they see that a company doesn’t support one of its workers who does the act, most folks will deem the establishment as heartless, careless, cruel and quite simply a bad business when it comes to morals and ethics.
But is that a fair accusation? Let’s say, although extremely kind, these three former employees really did break the rules.
Hypothetically speaking, McDonalds’ can’t offer all servicemen and women discounted and free meals. Levia (and others) offering free meals (even at their own expense) went against company policies.
And Meijer and Wal-Mart have strict policies to protect workers and customers. Helping customers in dangerous situations puts both the employee and customer at risk, for which the stores can be liable, so these two men broke the rules.
Again, this is my own speculation, but what if these companies’ policies were along these lines and the employees truly did break the rules? Rules they agreed to follow upon accepting employment?
Should businesses and their employees always do what is morally correct and follow the “Good Samaritan” route? Especially if their company policies can result in a tarnished employer brand? Or were these employees’ terminations justified and businesses should always stick to their rules and regulations no matter what?