Fired lifeguard recognized as hero in FloridaBarcelona’s bodyguard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am not sure why the really weird stories always seem to come out Florida, but they do. You’ve probably heard about this one already. A Florida lifeguard was fired for trying to save the life of a drowning man outside his designated zone.
In case you missed it, here an excerpt of the story from Yahoo News:
A Florida lifeguard has been booted from his lifeguard chair for running to save a man who was floundering in the surf.
Tomas Lopez , 21, was fired by his supervisor for vacating his lifeguarding zone to save a man drowning in an unprotected area of the beach in Hallandale Beach, Fla., on Monday, reports the Sun Sentinel.
Lopez’ employer is not paid to patrol the zone where the man had been in trouble.
According to the Sun Sentinel, Lopez was approached by a beachgoer who pointed out a man struggling in the water nearly 1,500 feet south of his post.
Instinctively, he ran down the beach to save him. By the time Lopez got to him, he had been pulled to shore by fellow beachgoers.
Following his rescue attempt, Lopez was let go for leaving the area he was supposed to be covering.
Jeff Ellis and Associates, a private aquatic safety contractor, is hired by the city to patrol the beaches. The company is also in charge of hiring and training the city’s lifeguards.
Susan Ellis, spokeswoman for Jeff Ellis and Associates, told the Sun Sentinel that Lopez broke company rules when he left his zone, and cited “liability issues” that may have occurred as a result of Lopez leaving his designated area.
Ellis could not be reached for further comment.
Some of Lopez’s friends rallied for him on his Facebook page where he had posted the Sun Sentinel’s article.
“thats messed up but im proud of you for standing up like that and doing whats right. Tomas Lopez = Hero!!” one commenter wrote.
Tom Gill, spokesman for the United States Lifesaving Association, said Lopez’s firing came across as a little harsh.
“It seems unfortunate that a guard would do what he’s trained to do and be fired for it,” he said.
Gill said that the boundaries set by Jeff Ellis and Associates were most likely set by the city of Hallandale Beach in a private contract.
“Usually when the municipalities hire someone to [lifeguard], those organizations are not only taking on the responsibility of the job, but a lot of the liability,” he said.
There are a lot of HR issues buried in that little snippet of news – an employee’s behavior, harsh management reaction, contractual obligations, liability issues, social media, not to mention to the bad public relations issues that surrounded the whole thing.
Naturally, the initial over reaction and resulting public outcry spawned an even greater opposite reaction, like when several other lifeguards resigned in support of their colleagues.
Here’s how the rest of the story goes (so far):
- On July 5th, the management company is rethinking the termination, which may have been done “in haste” and is launching an investigation into the matter.
- On July 6th, the company offers the lifeguard his job back, but he declines to return to work.
- Today, the management company that fired the lifeguard “resigned” their contract with the Hallandale Beach, effective at the end of September
- The company that fired a lifeguard earlier this month for leaving his assigned coverage zone to rescue a drowning man has announced it will no longer provide lifeguard service for the city of Hallandale Beach, effective when the company’s contract with the city expires at the end of September, “I want to apologize to the Mayor, City Commission and citizens of Hallandale Beach for the regrettable incident surrounding the recent termination of our lifeguard employee, Tomas Lopez,” Jeff Ellis, president of Jeff Ellis Management, wrote in a letter to City Manager Renee Crichton
And the lifeguard dude, Tomas Lopez? He got the key to the city of Hallandale Beach from the Mayor. Maybe he’ll get elected Mayor next?