News / Halifax

Halifax LGBTQ group calls alleged firing of trans teen from McDonald's ‘discrimination,’ asks for apology

Kenny Cooley says he was let go from a Bedford McDonald's in part due to 'media attention' he's received.

Kenny Cooley outside Halifax West High School on Wednesday.

Jeff Harper / Metro Order this photo

Kenny Cooley outside Halifax West High School on Wednesday.

A local LGBTQ group says the McDonald’s corporation should apologize to protect its “reputation world-wide” after a trans teen says he was let go from the company over media attention.

Kenny Cooley, 17, spoke to Metro about being the first trans football player on his high school’s football team last week. He later made headlines in both national and international news outlets.

During an interview on Wednesday, Cooley said he was fired from the Bedford Highway location of McDonald’s two days after the story initially ran.

Cooley said he was given two reasons for dismissal, “one because of the media, and two because we had some schedule mishaps.”

The Youth Project is now calling on McDonald’s to reinstate Cooley and issue an apology.

Kate Shewan, executive director of the Youth Project, said she knows the company has individual franchise owners, but it’s important for the corporation to say “this is not great, it will affect our reputation world-wide.”

In addition, Shewan says McDonald’s should update their policies on gender identity and sexual orientation to make sure “they’re much more inclusive and respectful of everybody.”

“Youth are constantly telling us that they’re denied employment opportunities because they’re trans - we hear it happening all the time,” Shewan said Thursday.

“When it’s in the media, we felt that it was important to show our support.”

A McDonald’s spokesperson did not confirm Cooley had been let go but forwarded an emailed statement from the branch owner, Bob Smith, on Wednesday.

Smith said he was “shocked by these allegations as they are simply not true.”

Two other emails by Metro to McDonald’s on Thursday asking for further response, and whether an apology would be made to Cooley, weren't returned.

Since the media attention around Cooley included positive, good-news stories about his success, Shewan said that’s something they’ “expect an employer to really be celebrating.”

“To have that being brought up as part of a termination seems just completely backwards,” Shewan said.

“The very fact that it was brought up - when it’s such a positive story and they’re treating it as a negative - the only thing that I could see that being is transphobia.”

When Metro went to the Bedford location again Thursday, an employee said they would pass along a request to see the store manager, and the right person would call back. There was no response before deadline.