An Australian man with Down's syndrome, who has been a McDonald's employee for 32 years, has finally retired at the age of 50. Russell O'Grady first took the job at McDonald's when he was 18 years old.
Russell did an excellent job at the restaurant and has stayed there since he first took the job at 18 years old. A disability employment initiative called Jobsupport helped set him up with the job.
Back in 1986 when Russell started at McDonald's, it was very uncommon to see people with intellectual disabilities. So Russell gaining this position made him a pioneering employee. He was given the opportunity when he impressed the managers when he was packing party boxes. His role continued to expand and eventually he took on some roles in the kitchen.
McDonald's supervisor Courtney Purcell claims that O'Grady has become something of a local celebrity in Northmead, stating: "We've got regular customers who come in to see Russell on Thursday and Friday, and the staff look after him, so we're going to miss him," and O'Grady's brother Lindsey stated: "He's kind of blase about [the job] but loves his work very much. He's pretty cheeky sometimes. He's my big brother and he keeps me in line."
In a previous interview, Russell's father Geoff O'Grady stated: "He's very affectionate, dearly loved and appreciated, to such an extent that we just don't believe it ... Somebody said to him ''are you handicapped?'' and his answer was ''I used to be when I went to school, but now I work at McDonald's.'"
He added: "Without [Jobsupport] lots of people like Russell wouldn’t have the jobs they do today and they wouldn’t have the reward that that gives them; which is pride, a boost of their self-esteem, and feeling important and belonging in society It gives them a reason to be."
McDonald's Employee Russell O'Grady
Russell will be leaving behind many friends at the restaurant. Many of their customers are coming in just to say hello to Russell. Russell came to this decision after a long time thinking and reflecting. His family said that he believes this is the best option for his long-term health.