Could you ever be fired for doing your job too well? As strange as that sounds, it recently happened to a young college student working a summer job here in South Florida.
Most surprising is the fact that the young man is a lifeguard and was fired after he heroically saved a drowning swimmer's life. While this is not an example of wrongful termination in the strictest sense, it is a story that bears repeating.
Earlier this month, the 21-year-old lifeguard was sitting at his station at Hallandale Beach, just north of Miami. Someone else at the beach ran up to him to let him know about a drowning swimmer out in the water.
The swimmer was about 1,500 feet past the zone that is under lifeguard protection. Those who go outside the protected zone encounter signs such as "swim at your own risk," and lifeguards are instructed not to go beyond their assigned coverage area.
Indeed, this young man knew he was breaking company policy by attempting to rescue a drowning swimmer who was so far out. The lifeguard explained that "In those cases, we are supposed to call 911 and hope they get there in time." However, he could see that the swimmer had turned blue and "He was having a lot of trouble breathing."
Therefore, he made the decision to rescue the man, valuing human life more than rules and regulations. While he was gone, a fellow lifeguard tended to his station. That lifeguard witnessed the unfortunate aftermath. He said: "They let him go after he performed the rescue. They fired him basically on the spot."
Many people were understandably furious about the company's decision to fire this heroic lifeguard. In fact, three other lifeguards decided to quit. Two others were fired for being "liabilities" after saying that they would have done the same thing in that situation.
Recently, the company did offer the man his job back, perhaps in response to a flood of public criticism and negative media attention. However, the young man turned down the offer, and noted that he stands by the decision he made that day.
He said: "I believe I did what was right, and that if someone needs help you're going to go help them, regardless if you're a lifeguard or not."
Source: CNN, "Florida lifeguard says he's been offered his job back," John Zarrella and Lateef Mungin, July 6, 2012