Firing an Employee Could Make for Bad Press

Bad Press: Sink or Swim. Above Promotions Blog. Photo Courtesy of Idea22.
Bad Press: Sink or Swim.  Above Promotions Blog. Photo Courtesy of Idea22.
Bad Press: Sink or Swim. Above Promotions Blog. Photo Courtesy of Idea22.  Not related to story.

If ever there were a reason to ensure you have a crisis communication plan in place, the story of Tomas Lopez, a former employee of Jeff Ellis and Associates based in Orlando, FL, would be a prime case.

To briefly summarize the story. Lopez left his stationed area on Hallandale Beach in Florida to help a man who was drowning in a section of the beach not managed by the city nor the lifeguard company. Although the man survived and is currently in the hospital, thanks to the efforts of Lopez and a nurse, the company decided to adhere to their policy and fire Lopez for his actions.

Whether the company is in the right or wrong for their actions, it could be assumed they never expected to read or view this incident on a national scale.  It could also be concluded, they do not have a current Crisis Communication plan in place.  If so, the owner and a supervisor for their company would not be quoted providing different sound bites for the media.

According to the Associated Press and WFLA, supervisor Susan Ellis gives the quote below to the media.

“We have liability issues and can’t go out of the protected area,” supervisor  Susan Ellis told the Sun Sentinel. “What he did was his own decision. He knew  the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do.”

Meahwhile, owner, Jeff Ellis, is quoted by WPTV as saying:

“We are not a fire-rescue operation. We are strictly a lifeguard organization,”  he said. “We limit what we do to the protected swimming zones that we’ve agreed  to service.”

“If we find our actions on the part of the leadership team were inappropriate,  we will rectify it based upon the information that comes forward.”

City Manager Renee Crichton issued a statement Wednesday saying, “We do not have  all the facts in this case. We take the safety of all visitors to our beaches  very seriously. Whether they are in a protected area or unprotected area, we  believe aid must be rendered.”

Who would have thought firing an employee could make national news?


What do you think?  Should the company have fired Lopez?  Should the city renew their contract?


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4 thoughts on “Firing an Employee Could Make for Bad Press

  1. They should not fire anyone for heroic acts until they did a full review/investigation. Yes they should have the foresight to review their proccesses and policies yearly. Being in Florida and near beaches should have been top of mind….regardless…they are punishing a humane person and that just looks wrong all the way around.

  2. Great feedback Brenda! It is interesting they are pursuing an investigation AFTER firing the employee. It must be at the request of the city as the supervisor who did respond to the public made no mention of an investigation.

    Do you think the city will wait until the contract expires and not renew?

  3. This company pursued an investigation after the news hit CNN and went national. They are trying to wipe the egg off their faces for suggesting this young man allow a human to die rather than face unemployment. The lifeguard has the integrity to do whats right and the company is doing damage control. My opinion is they need a different company guarding the lives of people. One that values life over liability issues. That’s what insurance is for.

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