Dutch court: Dismissal of McDonald’s employee over cheese slice was not justified

January 26th, 2010 - 3:51 am ICT by BNO News  

McDonalds LEEUWARDEN, THE NETHERLANDS (BNO NEWS) — A Dutch court in Leeuwarden last week ruled that the dismissal of a McDonald’s employee for giving away a cheese slice was not justified, the court said on Monday.

A female employee of a McDonald’s restaurant in the Dutch town of Lemmer was fired with immediate effect in March 2009 because she added a cheese slice to a colleague’s hamburger. McDonald’s claimed that by adding the cheese slice, the hamburger was no longer a hamburger but rather a cheeseburger, which is more expensive. The regular price of a hamburger in the Netherlands is 1.75 euro (2.47 USD) while a cheeseburger costs 1.95 euro (2.75 USD).

However, the employee said, the cheese slice was added on request of the colleague. “Make him as nutritious as possible; add a slice of cheese,” her colleague allegedly instructed her. The court said the employee was afraid to refuse the request and did not know if her colleague paid for a hamburger or cheeseburger because the product was paid with another colleague. The employee also did not do anything secretly because she used packaging solely used for cheeseburgers.

“Do not give away products to friends, family and/or colleagues. This also applies to products which will be thrown away,” the company rules say, while warning that a breach of one of the rules may result in being fired. “Fact is that the employee gave a slice of cheese to a colleague,” the judge said in its ruling. “This, however, does not mean that there is an urgent need for or that the only possible measure is immediate dismissal.” The judge also argued that McDonald’s did not give the employee a chance to explain her actions.

The court further said that McDonald’s did not treat the employee fairly, as the other colleague (who asked to add the cheese slice) was not fired. McDonald’s said this is because the manager intervened before the hamburger/cheeseburger was handed over to the colleague. The court refuted that argument.

The judge ruled that McDonald’s decision to fire the employee went too far, and said the company could have taken a more appropriate measure - such as a formal warning.

McDonald’s has been ordered to pay for all the legal costs, and pay the employee the salary she would have received if she had continued her contract to the end - which would have expired five months after the incident. The employee, who worked at the restaurant with a salary of 8.24 euro (11.65 USD) per hour, will receive 4,265.47 euro (6,033.50 USD) plus interest.

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