Lifeguard Fired for Saving Drowning Man Against Company 'Rules'

lifeguard stationQuiz time! You're a lifeguard and you see a man drowning. Would you save his life? What if it was going to get you fired from your lifeguarding gig?

If you're thinking that's one of the dumbest questions you've ever heard, heads up: Tomas Lopez says that is exactly what happened to him. On Monday, the lifeguard, well, former lifeguard saved a man who is now in critical condition in a Florida hospital. And now Lopez is out of a job.


According to statements to the media from supervisors at Jeff Ellis and Associates, the drowning man who the lifeguard helped was swimming in an area that was marked "swim at your own risk." The company doesn't pay for lifeguarding service for that area of Hallandale Beach. They say they don’t permit their lifeguards to protect anyone outside of their official areas because of liability and safety issues.

What they say may well be true. But I wager that if a single member of the Jeff Ellis staff was drowning, and there was a lifeguard somewhere in the vicinity, they'd cease to think like businessmen and start thinking like an average human being. They'd want help. Pronto.

Wouldn't you? Wouldn't you be grateful that someone looked at you drowning and said, "Screw the rules, I can help that human"? That's you, thinking like a person, not a businessman.

I'm well aware that business owners have the bottom line to think about, especially in this economy. But businesses are made up of people and they exist to serve people. As people, we have to think beyond finances in order to survive, in order to flourish.

People think, for example, about what value a company puts on human life when they choose where to spend their money. If you're going to go swimming, do you choose a place staffed by lifeguards who go above and beyond, or one where a guy drowned last week because the trained professional said, "Eh, let 'em die, he was stupid"? I know which I'd choose, which begs the question: if Tomas Lopez was fired for violating the rules to save someone's life, what does the company think they gained?

They could have had a public relations dream on their hands if they'd given Lopez an award and slapped him on the back. That's what you do with stellar employees: you reward them so they will continue to excel, hence enhancing your company's reputation. That's why you hire them, after all: because a company needs good people to make the company look good.

Instead they have a public relations nightmare that mirrors what they likely would have had if the man had drowned: no one wants to go support a company that puts profits before people.

What do you think should have been done here? Is Lopez right? Is the company?


Image via Tony Fischer Photography/Flickr

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