Larry Ottoviani had been working for seven years at the 7Up Bottling Company in Sacramento, Calif. But now, an act of compassion has gotten him fired.
Ottoviani has been taking care of a colony of feral cats living near the bottling plant. He’s been feeding them and working with the Sacramento SPCA to get the felines neutered and vaccinated. He’s even helped find forever homes for some of the tamer cats and kittens.
The SSPCA recruited volunteers to sweep and clean up shards of broken glass in an unused area near the bottling facility and launched an aggressive TNR campaign in 2008. Between August 2008 and December 2009, they trapped 71 feral cats and had them neutered and vaccinated before returning them to their home.
Plant management didn’t see this as a good thing. Instead, they claimed that the TNR campaign was bringing more feral cats onto the property and that Ottoviani’s actions put them in danger of violating Food & Drug Administration regulations requiring that food processing facilities do everything they can to protect against food contamination.
So on January 4, Ottoviani got his pink slip. The termination notice claimed he’d violated his “last chance agreement not to feed the cats on company time and/or company property.”
Ottoviani doesn’t deny that he fed the cats, but he insists he didn’t do so while he was on the clock or on company property.
As if it weren’t bad enough that the 7Up Bottling Company fired Larry Ottoviani for engaging in the responsible care of feral cats, the truly heartless thing is that they couldn’t have picked a worse time to do so. His wife is under treatment for a debilitating illness that has required lots of hospital visits; he’s taking care of a profoundly disabled adult son; and Ottoviani himself has had his share of medical problems. He had to have a kidney removed when doctors found a tumor on it.
So here’s a guy facing huge medical costs, and now he’s got to find a way to pay for $400 a month COBRA premiums while being unemployed. And, of course, COBRA benefits only last so long.
Now, if the dude had come to work drunk every day, for example, I’d understand why he had to be fired. And his bosses would probably be more compassionate about it, too. But Ottoviani is just a guy with a whole lot of heavy-duty crap going on at home, who found a release from his anxiety in the care and feeding of needy cats.
The 7Up Bottling Company fired a man for doing the right thing, and for cooperating with it to the maximum extent possible.
“Are corporations just going out of their way to be inhumane these days? Firing Ottoviani for responsibly managing a feral colony? The excuse of sanitation is BS. If they were outside the plant buildings, they were out there with the dirt, broken glass, birds, rodents, and insects. I hardly think cats behind a building or on an adjacent lot are jeopardizing sanitation standards. No more 7-Up, Pepsi, or Dr. Pepper for me and mine.” ~ comment on 7Up’s Facebook page
If you want to do something to help Larry Ottoviani get his job back, you can join the hundreds of people who have already posted their comments on 7Up’s Facebook page (but please, put away your pitchforks and torches first: cussing and wishing gruesome death on people is not helpful) or sign the Reinstate Larry Ottoviani petition.