McDonald’s unfairly dismissed worker for giving a colleague free cheese, says Dutch court

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

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A file photograph of a cheeseburger
Image: US National Cancer Institute.

A court in the Netherlands ruled yesterday that the fast-food company McDonald’s over-reacted in dismissing an employee who added a piece of cheese to a colleague’s hamburger without charging for it. McDonalds has been ordered to pay compensation since, the court ruled, “The cost of a slice of cheese is not comparable to a severe step such as redundancy”.

In March 2009, a waitress in Lemmer sold a hamburger to a colleague, and then added some cheese when her colleague asked for some. McDonald’s said that this made the meal a cheeseburger, not a hamburger, and so she was sacked for not charging extra for the cheese. Rules for staff, the company argued, prevented them from giving food away for free.

Now a court in Leeuwarden has ordered McDonald’s to pay her more than €4,200 (about US$5,900 or £3,700), since it decided that a written warning would have been a more appropriate reaction. The compensation is for five months of lost earnings, with holiday pay and interest.

The court noted that the manager of the branch had not asked the employee for an explanation before firing her, nor had McDonald’s considered taking action against the colleague who asked for the cheese. “The dismissal was too severe a measure. It is just a slice of cheese,” said the court.