No good (safety) deed goes unpunished: A Florida company fired a lifeguard for leaving his zone to help rescue a nearby swimmer. Now the company is having second thoughts about terminating its employee.
Tomas Lopez, 21, was a Hallandale Beach, FL, lifeguard. He was an employee of Jeff Ellis Management, a private aquatic safety contractor. Hallandale Beach outsourced lifeguard jobs to the agency.
Recently, Lopez was patrolling a portion of the beach when people ran up to him and said a man was drowning in an unprotected area of the beach.
Lopez ran about 1,500 feet beyond his post to help rescue the man. By the time he got there, others had pulled the man out of the water on the section of the unprotected beach. Lopez and an off-duty nurse tended to the man until paramedics arrived. The man is in good condition.
Following the incident, Ellis Management fired Lopez for leaving his lifeguard zone.
Then the story got national attention, including this piece on ABC News. Howls of public protest to Lopez’s firing appeared online.
Now, Jeff Ellis, head of the company named after him, tells the Sun-Sentinel newspaper that supervisors at his firm acted too quickly when they fired Lopez. It turns out no section of beach was left unprotected when Lopez ran to rescue the drowning swimmer.
Despite the offer to get his job back, Lopez says he probably won’t take it.
“Now that [my firing] is public, they want to fix it,” Lopez told ABC. “That’s shady to me. If I never said anything, they never would have acted.”
Six of Lopez’s fellow lifeguards quit their jobs when they found out about his firing.
The hasty decision by Ellis company supervisors will give Hallandale Beach officials something to think about. The community’s contract with the company expires at the end of September.
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