Verizon suspends worker who rescued cat from telephone pole

(CBS NEWS) -- Verizon is facing the wrath of cat lovers for its decision to suspend a worker without pay for using the company's equipment to rescue a feline stuck atop a utility pole in Philadelphia.

The employee, Maurice German, violated Verizon's safety rules when he used a Verizon "bucket" truck's hydraulic lift to save the cat, "Princess Momma," earlier this month, the telecommunications company said.

The cat's owner had called the fire department, animal rescue and the telephone company before German, who was working nearby, responded to pleas that he help the kitty, who had been stuck for 12 hours, one resident told CBS Philadelphia.

Although German was heralded on social media for his goodwill gesture, Verizon suspended him for three weeks without pay because he violated the company's safety rules.

"For safety reasons, our trucks and related equipment are not intended to be used in the area in which he was operating, specifically around electrical wires," a company spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch by email. "While our actions may not be popular, he potentially put his life and those around him in jeopardy."

Verizon said it had made a donation to Pennsylvania Animal Rescue & Protection, or SPCA, to show its support for animal rescue groups.

The gesture did little to appease customers and animal lovers on social media, with the company called "heartless" and worse in a multitude of tweets online.

Others made their own donations to two GoFundMe pages set up to compensate German for his lost wages.

One, set up by Verizon colleague of German's, has raised more than $7,000, exceeding its goal of $4,650, while another stopped accepting donations after raising $3,395 for the suspended worker.

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