McDonald's worker in viral video says boxing helped her fight off customer who grabbed her

By Christopher Brito

/ CBS News

Days after a video of a Florida McDonald's employee being attacked by a customer went viral, she spoke to CBS affiliate WTSP about defending herself –– and why workplace safety needs to improve at the fast food chain.

Yasmine James, 20, started working at the McDonald's in St. Petersburg three months ago. On Monday, a customer got aggressive when she informed him he had to ask for a straw. After cursing and yelling at her, she said he leaned over the counter and attacked her.

"He grabbed me and that really scared me because I didn't know if he had a gun or a knife or what," James said. "When he grabbed me, my main thing was to get him off of me the best way I knew. Just let me go."

James, who learned how to box as a teenager, fought back as fellow coworkers stood by idly as seen in the viral video.

WATCH: Video shows a McDonald's employee punching a customer after he violently attempted to pull her over a counter. Authorities say the man is now under arrest. https://t.co/wQEI3PITyV pic.twitter.com/RY0Muf3dSX

— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 3, 2019

She said her manager didn't come to her aid, but doesn't fault them for it. She claimed they've never received proper training to deal with unruly customers. She is now calling on McDonald's to improve employee safety and train managers to de-escalate similar situations.

"I don't want it to be blamed on him, I want to blame it on the way he was trained 'cause he is not a bad manager," she said. "It's just that when that thing happened it's like he didn't know what to do."

Police arrested 40-year-old Daniel Taylor in connection with the attack. He was charged with two counts of simple battery.

James' attorneys want the charges elevated to felony battery. They said they are exploring all legal options.

"This is the last straw for violence against all workers and all women," she said.

In a statement issued Thursday, McDonald's said the company's "highest priority is always the safety and well-being of everyone in the restaurant." It added: "We firmly stand with our employees everywhere, including our employees at this restaurant who were involved in this incident."

For now, James is taking a leave because she's not comfortable with being "paranoid and scared" at her job.

First published on January 4, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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