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Florida McDonald's employee attacked by customer at work hires attorney after being placed on leave

Posted at 9:17 AM, Jan 04, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — A McDonald's employee who was battered by a customer at work has hired an attorney and says she has been placed on leave following the incident.

On New Year's Eve, a video of the employee, Yasmine James, 20, being battered by a male customer at her place employment in St. Petersburg went viral. On Wednesday, James retained local attorney Michele Rayner-Goolsby after she says she was placed on leave.

James says that although she was not physically hurt, she was emotionally hurt when she was left to defend herself.

Attorney Rayner-Goolsby released the following statement:

On New Year’s Eve at the McDonald’s located on 34th Street South in St. Petersburg, Ms. James was physically attacked by Daniel Taylor, a customer who became enraged after being told of the restaurant’s ‘no straw in the lobby’ policy, simply meaning straws are only offered to customers upon request. Taylor, refusing to believe Ms. James, proceeded to berate her, hurling vulgar and discriminatory names at her, while threatening physical violence in front of her colleagues and other customers. Ms. James’ attempts to de-escalate the situation were met by more violence, as Taylor forcefully grabbed her by the collar, dragging her over the top of the counter. Ms. James was left to defend herself, as no one immediately stepped in to help. While Taylor was arrested, the McDonald’s corporation has yet to release a statement about the incident and has placed Ms. James on leave. This case is a clear example of how white privilege and male privilege too often leave Black women alone to defend themselves in the face of harm. I’m grateful that Ms. James has entrusted me with her case; she’s not alone in the fight anymore.James spoke about the incident for the first time Thursday since it happened. She says she's not an aggressive person and hopes people don't think differently of her. She says she needed to defend herself.

"I didn’t have any control over my body when he grabbed me," she said. "Like I’m scared, like why are you grabbing me, I just didn’t understand his intentions. Even though we were having a verbal conversation, I don’t think it was that for him to grab me.”

She says right after the attack she had to call 911 because she says management didn't know what to do. She doesn't blame her manager and says hes a good person but says there isn't enough company training on how to deal with situations like this.

"When that happened, it was like he didn’t know what to do. It's like, basically what's the procedure? There’s none," she said.

It’s why she’s now working closely with her new attorneys to hold McDonald's accountable. James hasn’t been fired and says McDonald's has welcomed her back, but she doesn’t feel safe.

"It’s like scary, anybody can do something to me. I work so close with the customers, and now that everyone knows and people don’t agree with this they can do anything," she said. "I am committed to using this horrible experience as means to fight for justice, not only for myself, but for other women experiencing this kind of violence in environments where they should be safe and protected.”

“I am so grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from all around the country. I am aware this type of violence happens to women, especially Black women, everyday," James added.

St. Pete police arrested Daniel Taylor, 41, and charged him with two counts of battery.

A McDonald's spokesperson released this statement to ABC Action News on Thursday:

We share the community's concern, and are taking this disturbing incident very seriously. Our highest priority is always the safety and well-being of everyone in the restaurant, and we do not condone violence of any kind, especially against our employees. We firmly stand with our employees everywhere, including our employees at this restaurant who were involved in this incident.James believes she is getting paid while on leave however McDonald's has not yet confirmed this information.