OLEAN, N.Y. (WIVB) – Heather Levia wanted to help first responders by giving them a warm meal on a cold day, but when she showed up to work the next morning she no longer had a job.
Levia, a 23-year-old single mom with twins, works two jobs and is putting herself through nursing school. During her morning shift as a manager at McDonald’s last week, while several local fire departments worked in sub-zero temperatures to put out a house fire, Levia says she saw a way to help.
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Olean firefighters ordered 25 breakfast sandwiches and hash browns, and Levia says she pulled $83 out of her pocket and paid for it herself.
“Just because I appreciate everything they do,” she explained.
Then a little bit later, another department ordered $70 of food.
Levia sent her boss a text message to see if the company would pay the tab. She thought they might because she claims they regularly give free meals to police officers who stop by.
“It’s very common in our store,” she said.
But Levia’s boss said no, McDonald’s would not donate the food. Levia then called the corporate office and got the same answer.
So once again, she and fellow workers picked up the tab.
When word spread that Levia paid the bill, some firefighters called her boss and complained, thinking the restaurant made Levia feel obligated to pay for their meals.
Levia says after that, her boss told her, “You opened a whole bee’s nest.”
At her next shift, after eight years of working for McDonald’s, Levia was fired. She says the reason given was she swore at a superior – something she denies.
“I did say this is ‘freaking’ ridiculous. But it was not implied to anybody,” she said.
Allegany firefighters say they never expect free food and were grateful for the gesture.
“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,” said Allegany Fire Media Officer Gordon Scott. “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 added, “It’s just wrong. I wish the communities would change and help each other out. 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.”
Tom Meyers, the owner of the Olean McDonald’s, gave News 4 the following statement:
“The Meyers 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.
“We are aware that certain allegations have been made concerning the reasons for Heather Levia’s termination. 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.”
Levia says she has already received several job offers.