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Debra Harrell back on her job at McDonald’s, lawyer says


Debra Harrell, who was arrested earlier this month after she left her 9-year old daughter at a park near the family home while she went to work as a McDonald’s shift manager, is back on the job, according to her lawyer.

In an e-mail Thursday, her lawyer, Robert V. Phillips, said there had been a “misunderstanding about her job and Debra is scheduled [to] be back working full time now.” He didn’t return phone calls seeking further comment.

A McDonald’s spokesman declined to elaborate on Harrell, who has worked for McDonald’s for five years, but said that she had not been fired.

“It would not be appropriate to discuss an employment matter in the media, but on behalf of the Owner/Operator Christine Crawford I can confirm that this employee has not been terminated,” said Lisa McComb, Director, McDonald’s Media Relations in an e-mail Wednesday.

Phillips initially said that Harrell was out of a job, sparking a further round of criticism among some who thought that the 46-year-old mother had been treated unfairly as she tried to juggle her working class job with childcare issues.

According to documents obtained by WJBF News Channel 6, Harrell allegedly left her daughter at the park several times in the month of June, leading to a July 1 arrest on charges of unlawful neglect of a child.  Her daughter was temporarily removed from her care, but they have since been reunited. Harrell is scheduled for a court appearance on September 5th.

Clair Ryan, who kicked off a fundraising effort to assist Harrell, said she wasn’t sure what type of childcare arrangements were in place.  Ryan, who has raised about $36,000 for Harrell though online donations, said that Harrell “looked forward to her return to work,” although it’s unclear how long she had been away from her job.

Her arrest sparked debate about “helicopter parenting” versus the “free-range kids” approach, a movement designed to fight “the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape,” according to one Web site.

The incident comes as several high profile ongressional Republicans have turned to the issue of family leave and upward mobility.  Rep. Paul Ryan unveiled in a speech Thursday a deficit neutral approach to poverty, a departure from the type of cost cutting that marked previous proposals.  Ryan, whose plan would consolidate safety net programs like food stamps and housing vouchers into a single block grant to be doled out to the states, is expected to address the National Urban League on Friday.

The national base pay for  McDonald’s worker is $7.25 an hour and the company’s CEO, Don Thompson, has suggested he could support a bump to $10.10, a hike that President Obama and Democrats have been pushing for, with little traction.

Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for The Fix.

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