A bank worker from Oregon, who gave a customer $20 of their own money on Christmas Eve, has been fired from her job for the kind-hearted gesture.
Emily James from Portland was working at a U.S. Bank call center as a senior banker when a customer came on the line explaining how a delay in cashing his monthly paycheck would leave him penniless over the holidays.
Marc Eugenio of Clackamas was dealing with James for more than hour on the phone, but it soon became clear that his check for more than $1,000 would not clear until after Christmas.
Feeling sorry for him and realizing that he was speaking from only a short distance away from the call center, James obtained permission from her supervisor and traveled to meet Eugenio to give him $20 of her own money for gas.
”I felt terrible about the whole situation and there were no ways to have the funds from his paycheck released,’ James told DailyMail.com. ‘The only options I had were outside the box and so I decided to drive over and meet him.’
Emily James from Portland, pictured, was working at U.S. Bank when a customer phoned to explain how a delay in cashing his paycheck would leave him penniless
James realized the man was not far away from the call center where she worked and decided to drive to meet him and give the gentleman $20 for gas money. She was later fired for the act
‘I decided to help him because I’ve been in the same situation. I’ve been stranded and left feeling helpless. Christmas is the one day of the year to be kind to one another,’ James continues.
She thought little of her good deed until she was told almost one week later that she would be fired for an ‘unauthorized interaction with a customer’.
The supervisor who gave her permission to carry out the good deed also lost his job, according to The Oregonian.
Eugenio has since called the firings ‘ridiculous.’
‘I was a customer of U.S. Bank, I needed help, and she went above and beyond,’ he said. ‘I felt so bad. She was the only one helping me.’
‘I said, “I wish I had just $20 bucks to get home,”‘ Eugenio said as he recounted the telephone conversation to James. ‘And she said “Wait, hold on.”‘
James, who takes calls from customers all across the country says it is rare to speak to anyone local, but in this particular instance Eugenio was just a few miles away.
She said that it felt like a sign – especially on Christmas Eve.
She told Eugenio to stay put and that she’d be there within 30 minutes with some gas money.
‘I didn’t want her to do it,’ Eugenio said. ‘But I’m not proud to the point that I’m going to refuse help.’
James agreed to meet Marc Eugenio at this gas station, pictured, some 14 miles from the bank
James obtained permission to drive about 14 miles from her office to the gas station where Eugenio was waiting at about 3:30pm.
‘I handed him $20 in cash, said Merry Christmas and went right back to work,’ she said to OregonLive.
One week later, a senior manager at the bank fired James, pictured, her for having an ‘unauthorized interaction with a customer’
‘It was like, “Wow, she really cares,”‘ Eugenio said. ‘Most supervisors, maybe they would have tried, but nobody would have ever come out because I was stranded. She had a big heart. She believed what I was saying.’
A week later on New Year’s Eve, James was suddenly called in to speak with the regional service manager.
James explained: ‘She said, “We’re sorry, we cannot keep your employment because of unauthorized interaction with a customer.”‘
‘They were worried about my safety,’ James said. ‘He could have kidnapped me or shot me. But I wouldn’t have left or even tried to ask if that was OK if I thought that this person would hurt me.’
‘”You’re going to fire me for doing something good?”‘ James asked her manager. ‘I never even got to stand up for myself or contact HR,’ she told DailyMail.com.
James, who had worked for U.S. Bank for two years, says that it is the first time she has ever been disciplined on the job.
In fact, she has received more than a dozen certificates, accolades and awards.
One of them for a ‘Silver Shield Award’ reads: ‘We do the right thing. It’s what we believe. It’s how we act. And it’s a core value you’ve recently brought to life through your work,’ while another citation from April 2019, was for ‘putting people first’.
‘I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t help someone if you had the ability to,’ James said. ‘It’s Christmas Eve, it’s already a rough time for people, and you’re going to leave someone stranded? I couldn’t in good conscience do that, knowing it was something I could fix, or at least get him home. Had I known then that I was going to be let go, I would have just removed the hold on the check, because that absolutely would have gotten me fired.’
James says that she originally wanted to get her job back after feeling an injustice over the way things turned out, but now she is not so sure.
‘I don’t think I would want to continue to work for someone who would do that,’ she said.
U.S. Bank has since released a statement regarding James’ behavior:
‘Our policies and procedures for call center representatives are in place to both help and protect our employees and customers. Ms. James’s employment was terminated because rather than using the proper processes and procedures to help the customer, she chose to pursue a course of action that placed herself and the bank at risk. Based on a review of the calls with this customer, our investigation concluded that Ms. James’ could have helped the customer had she simply pursued the legitimate solution that was known and available to her.
‘Instead, Ms. James chose to knowingly break the rules, putting herself and the bank at unnecessary risk. Taking disciplinary action in situations like this is always difficult, as it impacts people. We never take that lightly. But it was necessary to protect our employees and our customers.’