A school cafeteria employee did what she thought was the right thing to do, but her kind gesture backfired on her.
Bonnie Kimball had worked as a lunch employee at Mascoma Valley Regional High School for five years. Every day, she would drive from her home in Canaan Village to the school to preside over the main lunch line.
Aside from that, she would operate the cash register, sell drinks, and make ice cream and smoothies for the 326 students at the school.
“We didn’t even call it work. We got up in the morning, we took care of our families and we went to take care of the kids,” she said when she was interviewed at her home last month.
The school cafeteria employee clearly loved her job and knew that she was good at it. So she was utterly shocked when the district manager of Café Services – the food services company that employed her – handed her a letter of termination on March 28.
It all started when a student put $8 worth of items on his tray that he didn’t have the money for. Thinking that it was no big deal, she just told the boy to let his mom know that she needed to add money to his account, then proceeded to serve him his lunch.
She also wasn’t worried because she knew the boy’s parents since they were children, so she trusted that the tab would be paid for in no time.
True enough, the next day, that’s exactly what happened.
During that day, a district manager from Café Services was present because their contract with the school was nearing its end. Bonnie said she was told, “Don’t cause any scenes with the contract.” And she heeded this directive.
Bonnie claims the manager asked her what was on the student’s plate and then walked away. The next day, she was called into the office and fired.
“‘Do you understand what you did was wrong? That was theft,'” Bonnie said she was told.
A spokesperson for Café Services claimed that it “would never authorize an employee to not feed a student or staff member a meal.”
Jaime Matheson, the director of human resources, said in a statement:
“Although we are not at liberty to discuss the confidential details regarding an employee’s employment or termination from employment, we can share that the company has policies and procedures in place that are shared with and acknowledged by team members.”
“When established policies and procedures are not followed corrective action is put in place up to and including termination.”
Bonnie’s letter of termination confirmed that it was indeed the lunch incident that caused her to be fired from her job.
The letter dated April 9 read:
“On March 28, a District manager was on-site and witnessed a student coming through the line with multiple food items that you did not charge him for. This is a strict violation of our Cash Handling Procedures, the Schools Charge Policy and Federal Regulation governing free meals.”
In protest to her termination, two other school cafeteria employees quit their jobs.
Christina Moodie, whose son attends the high school, said:
“These guys really took care of our kids. They put our kids first and their focus was really our kids,” she said.
Bonnie feels upset, and worries about her reputation at Canaan. She also hasn’t lined up for a job this coming fall.
“I’m just dealing with so much right now: the public, paperwork. One minute I’m mad and the next minute, I just want to forget it all happened. I guess I’m mourning my job,” she said.
Bonnie said that she doesn’t blame the school district for what happened to her because it was Café Services that employed her. In fact, she says that she’s received encouragement from some officials in the school.
Despite the issue, Mascoma has renewed its contract with Café Services.
What do you think of her employer’s actions? Do you also agree that her termination is unjustified?
UPDATE: She may have gotten into trouble for being too kind, but this school cafeteria worker captured the hearts of thousands. One of these hearts belong to renowned celebrity Chef Jose Andres. He praised fired employee for her act of kindness and called her a hero. He also made it know that she is welcome to join her team. He tweeted, “The hero is Bonnie Kimball! If she needs a job we have openings at @thinkfoodgroup if you know her, let her know!”. Read full story HERE.