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Even Donald Trump wouldn’t be this cruel.
Look at it this way: That gum-chewing laggard who seemed to take half a day to process your auto registration last time you visited the DMV probably got a good employee review and a raise. But Tomas Lopez, the 21-year-old lifeguard who saved a drowning man got told “You’re fired!” because he left his zone to do so.
That well-publicized incident was reminiscent of the four Walmart employees in Layton, Utah, who were fired last year because they disarmed a guy who was accused of shoplifting and seemed ready to shoot his way out of the store.
In the meantime, no one was fired in the Alameda, Calif., police or fire departments for standing around last year while a man slowly drowned about 150 yards from shore. The city didn’t have the money to recertify its firefighters in water rescues, so the department let worries about legal liabilities keep its crew standing on the shore while the man died.
As columnist Jonah Goldberg wrote recently, “These are the symptoms of a sick culture.”
So what’s the cure? Public relations.
It’s a good start, anyway, but it only works if a robust media is in place to make bad publicity a bigger worry than lawyers.
Lopez got so much publicity for saving a man and getting fired that the city of Hallandale Beach gave him the key to the city this week. The company he worked for offered him his job back, which he politely declined. Clearly, the folks at Jeff Ellis Management are worried their contract might not be renewed because they’ve left the impression swimmers won’t be saved if they’re drowning.
Walmart seems to be stubbornly clinging to its decision to fire the four Layton employees, who since have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit. But the corporation did sing a different tune recently when two store managers in Texas tackled a gunman.
A Walmart spokeswoman praised those workers for their “courage.” Think a lesson hadn’t been learned?
The trouble with relying on publicity to save the day is that newspapers and traditional media are cutting costs and laying off reporters. Without robust coverage, these kinds of cases might go unnoticed.
But once they do get noticed, things change.
Donald Trump, at least the one we see on TV, isn’t the kind who would yell “You’re fired!” because the lawyers got in the way of a good idea. Raw capitalism rewards those with the best ideas or the best practices. The public likes to reward people who simply do what’s right.
There is no reason those two ideals can’t coexist.
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Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist of the Deseret News. He has 32 years experience as a reporter, editor and editorial writer in Oklahoma, New York City, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. He also has been an adjunct journalism professor at Brigham Young and Weber State universities.