Can they fire a lifeguard for leaving his beach to save a drowning man?
You have probably seen this news item. A lifeguard by the name of Lopez saw a man drowning outside of his area and went to save him. He was fired for this because he was paid to patrol one area, and he left it to save the man. If you haven’t, here is the link: Lifeguard Fired Story.
This story illustrates how difficult employment law is for employees. This story sounds horrible, but under the law of at will employment, employers can fire their employees for almost anything, including violating policies against leaving the beach you patrol.
Any lawyer representing him will have to be creative. For example, in Connecticut, an employee can bring a lawsuit for terminations which violate public policy. So, if Florida had such a law and a policy, expressed perhaps in a Good Samaritan law, that people with specialized training must help persons in need, then firing Mr. Lopez for helping might conflict with that public policy. The common law imposes no such obligation and so it would have to be found in a Florida statute, regulation or other expression of its policy.
The good news is that the company became embarrassed by the publicity and offered him his job back. This fact illustrates that there are methods other than litigation to make employers play fair.