Sunday, July 8, 2012

“You Saved That Man's Life. You're Fired.”

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Ryan Young, who was suspended without pay for several weeks by Safeway because he intervened in an in-store incident in which a man was beating, punching, and kicking his six-months-pregnant girlfriend. Young, you see, behaved like a human being instead of a appropriately mindless drone who follows stupid rules whether it is morally or ethically justifiable to do so or not. I should note that after a huge public outcry Safeway reversed field and gave Mr. Young his job back… no word about whether he was remunerated at all for his undeserved time off.

I thought Safeway behaved about as stupidly toward an employee as was possible, even for a major corporation headed by the usual gaggle of incompetent knuckle-draggers. In this surmise, of course, I evidenced an egregious lack of imagination, and I apologize, Gentle Reader. It took only six weeks or so for the mental deficients who head up Jeff Ellis Management to surpass Safeway and become the poster children for how not to deal with employees.

Tomas Lopez (seen at right) was on duty as a lifeguard in Hallandale Beach, Florida, when someone came running up to his post, yelling for assistance. A man was drowning in an area south of Lopez’s station. Lopez raced to his assistance. The man was saved. Ah, but, you see, the drowning man was outside Lopez’s zone, or whatever… he was in an area not serviced by the company.

The “correct” thing to do, according to the ghouls at Ellis, would apparently have been to let him drown. Quoth Ellis, “We are not a fire-rescue operation. We are strictly a lifeguard organization—we limit what we do to the protected swimming zones that we’ve agreed to service.” Susan Ellis, presumably the wife (sister? mother? daughter?) of eponymous jackass Jeff, snivels that “We have liability issues and can’t go out of the protected area.” Actually, you can, you heinous bitch. Mr. Lopez did. And he was rightfully unrepentant about having done so, even if it meant losing his crappy $8.25 an hour job working for a couple of unethical asshats like you two: “I was prepared for it. It wasn’t too much of an upset because I had my morals intact over my job.”

This situation is worse than the Ryan Young saga in three ways. First, this was—or appeared to be—a matter of life and death. It turns out that the endangered swimmer had already been pulled out of the water by the time Mr. Lopez got to him, but there was no way of knowing that would happen when he went to the man’s aid. And the victim did require emergency medical attention which Lopez delivered prior to the arrival of the paramedics.

Second, unlike Mr. Young, Mr. Lopez was doing precisely what he was trained to do: save lives on the beach. There’s a case—not a compelling one, but at least a case—that Young was untrained to intervene in the situation in that California grocery store and therefore should have refrained. No such argument applies to Mr. Lopez. His skills were specifically required and requested to save a man’s life. He did so. For that, he was fired. The good news is that six of his colleagues either resigned in protest or were fired for publicly disagreeing with the policy, as well. That’s at least half dozen good souls in one town. That might just be enough.

Third… wow, those Ellises are a piece of work. On the one hand they fire Lopez for abandoning his post, potentially jeopardizing beachgoers in the area specifically patrolled by the company. On the other hand, they assure the public that “The beach remained protected at all times.” In other words, the Ellises will say whatever the hell they have to, true or not, to cover their collective ass.

Once again, the Internet comes through. Public outcry was enormous, and it all, and I do mean all, made the Ellises out to be the quintessence of inhuman amorality… an easy job, given the circumstances. And… wait for it… they subsequently offered Lopez and his friends their jobs back, after determining that their statement to the press that the beach had remained fully protected actually turned out to be true. Who knew, right?

But it you thought this 21-year-old kid was a hero before, well, he effectively sang the Ellises a couple of choruses of the Johnny Paycheck classic, “Take This Job and Shove It”: “Now that [the firing] is public, they want to fix it. That's shady to me. If I never said anything, they never would have acted.” Smart lad.

It is perfectly clear that it was the bad publicity, not evidence of beach-goers’ safety or a rational re-consideration of policy, that led to the offer to have the lifeguards return to work. If one or two of them really need the job, I can’t blame them for going back. But I do like Tomas Lopez’s principled stand. I like it a lot, actually.

I can but hope that the Hallandale Beach authorities laugh in the Ellises’ faces when it comes time to renew their contract. Better yet, it would give me great pleasure if Ellis Management had gone belly up by then. People this devoid of ethical sensibilities should never again be allowed to be in a position of public trust.


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