Heather Levia, 23, was a shift manager at a McDonald's in Olean, N.Y. When a group of firefighters came in after battling a house fire in frigid early morning temperatures, she decided to pay $83 out of her own pocket for their breakfast.
"Just because I appreciate everything they do," she explained.
After another department ordered $70 more, Levia sent a message to her boss asking if the restaurant would pick up the tab. Levia says its common for McDonald's to donate free meals to police and firemen who stop by, but her manager refused, as did the corporate office.
When some of the firefighters found out that Levia -- a single mom putting herself through nursing school -- had paid the tab, someone called her boss to complain, thinking the restaurant had forced her to pay.
The next day, she was fired.
"You opened a whole bee's nest," Levia says her boss told her.
The company told Levia she was fired for swearing at a superior, which she denies.
“I did say this is ‘freaking’ ridiculous," she said. "But it was not implied to anybody."
Tom Meyers, the owner of the McDonald's, has contested Levia's story
“We are aware that certain allegations have been made concerning the reasons for Heather Levia’s termination," Meyers said. "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.”