McDonald’s: Heroes Need Not Apply

February 23rd, 2009 by

Perry Kennon, a thug with a long record, experienced a craving for a Big Mac, so he accompanied a lady friend to a McDonald’s in Little Rock, Arkansas. [“I’m lovin’ it!”] His lady said something he disapproved of, so he smacked her in the face. McDonald employee Nigel Haskett, 21 at the time, rushed at Kennon and pushed him out of the restaurant. Haskett then stood by the door to prevent Kennon from re-entering. Kennon, not surprisingly, took offense to Haskett’s chivalry. He went to his car, retrieved a gun, and shot Haskett in the stomach multiple times.
Haskett has undergone three abdominal surgeries and has incurred over $300,000 in medical bills. Surely, you know where this is going: McDonald’s denied Haskett’s workers comp claim. They assert that the injuries did not occur in the “course and scope of employment.”
According to Haskett’s lawyer, Philip M. Wilson:
“McDonald’s position now is that during a thirty-minute orientation Mr. Haskett and the other individuals going through the orientation were supposedly told that in the event of a robbery or anything like a robbery . . . not to be a hero and simply call 911. Mr. Haskett denies that anything like that was even mentioned during orientation or at any time during his employment with McDonald’s.”
Cowards Preferred?
It is reasonable to train employees not to resist robbers. By all means, hand over the cash and stay out of harm’s way. Such a policy may or may not be a viable basis for denying this particular claim, but it’s a strategy that comes with a big hole and significant cost. The hole is this: the incident was not “anything like a robbery.” It was an assault. Haskett rushed to the aid of a defenseless woman. He acted instinctively, as good samaritans usually do. In most states, the actions of good samaritans are considered compensable under workers comp statutes.
The cost of McDonald’s policy may prove greater than the short-term savings on the comp side. McDonald’s can try to set corporate policy that prevents employees from being good samaritans, but society frowns on such corporate indifference to suffering. It’s one thing to encourage employees to hand over the money, it’s quite another to prohibit them from helping people with urgent needs.
This much we know: Haskett was working when his instinctive, chivalric response resulted in serious wounds. McDonald’s could have shared the glory and given Haskett a medal. Instead, they gave him the boot. If their corporate strategy is stamping out any hint of heroism among their underpaid employees, I’m not lovin’ it.