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Posted by on Jul 5, 2012 in Health, Law, Places, Politics, Religion, Society | 27 comments

Can Employers in the Business of LifeGuarding, Enforce Depraved Indifference to Certain Human Lives?

Just a .02, and to try to not mix issues, for that often makes muckmire.

I’d just say, if the facts are a person was drowning having drifted or swam out of bounds as often happens in big water currents, and regardless of how they got themselves in that situation, and a person who is trained to save lives, saved the person from peril… then KUDOS are in order, not kicking around a person of such decent moral character and a protector of human life.

There’s been a stir-up about a 21 year old lifeguard, Tomás Lopez, fired from his job in Hallandale Beach Florida, from and by the outsourcing company that is not resident in Hallandale Beach [Broward County]… “Jeff Ellis and Associates.” Tomás was fired for running outside of the boundaries he was patrolling– in order to help save the life of a drowning person.

Three other lifeguards were on duty at the beach watching the appointed territory while Tomás sprinted about 1400 feet down the beach to help. “Jeff Ellis and Associates” contract to patrol the Hallandale Beach beach with four lifeguards and one supervisor is $334,000 annually, for short hours 365 days a year. They also lifeguard a couple pools in the community. The life guard’s pay is $8.25 an hour, and without benefits.

Though the lifeguards are on the beach each day, their hours are actually short, hardly what I’d think of as total coverage for the swimmers who surely swim before 9:15 am and after 5:30 pm, especially those who work and have families:
9:15am – 4:45 pm October 1 – March 31
10:00am – 5:30 pm April 1 – September 30
(from the Hallandale Beach website as of today)

What I do know, is the COMMUNITY of Hallandale Beach, led by mayor Joy Cooper (who early on was said to be out of town and unavailable for comment) –in the midst of this squall– ought use this event to examine both contractor and any current or subsequen contractor’s employment contracts to make sure they are up to the moral, ethical and legal standards of protection they want… for their community, for other souls who are not of their community.

As it stands, it appears the employer’s current contract opens the community for all manner of law suits, charges of unethical behavior, and moral turpitude.

1. (only one of several legal issues). I’d like to know if employment contract is, as they are in the state I live in, “at employer’s will/pleasure.” Meaning one can be fired for anything employer deems, including unjust firing. When employed at will, any kind of firing is justified. However, this alone would not protect the citizens/families of Hallandale Beach town from law suits for other reasons that have to do with care and protection and safety of human life.

2. (only one of several ethical issues) Many hold ethics as a higher standard than the law often. I’d want to know the employers’ ethical stance about seeing life in peril of perishing– and literaly insisting their employees do nothing about it when one is equipped to do everything about it–and how that jibes with their legal stance in employment contracts. And how that jibes with the Hallandale Beach families.

3. Community: I’d like to have the entire community polled to ask first of all, are they glad or are they mad about a life being saved that stands outside their boundaried area of protection. If it were one of their kids swimming outside of bounds, would this change any conclusion. What guideline would they like inserted in employment contracts re lifeguards so THEY dont be sued should some person they know or dont know, swim out of bounds, and was seen in distress, and no one did anything to try to help.

Just my .02, there are literally hundreds of thousands of men and women who daily attempt to protect other human beings and creatures, in ways that are outside the exact perameters of their job descriptions.

4. Which brings me to this: it can be guaranteed that any human being of heart, who sees another innocent human being in peril– and who could intervene but does not– will open themselves to winding up with a lifetime case of severe PTSD if there is no subsequent intervention.

5. In another world, had lifeguards not rescued a drowning person outside their boundaries made by their employers, it would be an interesting legal point to argue in a law suit against the employer that the employer’s policies forcing employees NOT to rescue a drowning human being [via the employer’s threat of termination of employment], thereby caused the lifeguards lifelong damage, loss of ability to work, and loss of income.

I would also like to think about in such scenario, that an employer’s allegedly morally indifferent policy could be argued strongly as ‘depraved indifference to the value of human life.’ [so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime. Depraved indifference focuses on the risk created by the defendant’s conduct, not the injuries actually resulting.]

Joe Windish has covered the story here.

Jeff Ellis, of the outsourced lifeguarding contract said:

While he does not doubt that Lopez was “good intentioned,” Ellis said the company’s first responsibility is to ensure that service for its zone is not disrupted, potentially endangering beachgoers there and opening up the company to liability issues.
“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.”

That’ potentially endangering beachgoers’ sounds like, while potentially putting all citizens of the city in the path of lawsuits, esp since in protest of the firing of Tomás, one other lifeguard quit with more rumored to be thinking over resignation too. So much for keeping beachgoers safe.
Also, Hallandale Beach city is former Seminole hunting and gathering land as well as sacred water …

This below is the City’s history as written by someone for the city’s website. {also from today}. It carries the very old bias that a place is ‘unsettled’ until/unless a certain folk show up who are not native to the land.

Additionally, if one Googles the city on news sites, one sees an embattled city council and mayor about other issues such as transparency about how much is being paid a certain advisor to the city, etc, the usual small-town that grew too fast, merry go round)

City of Hallandale Beach – City of Choice
Town of Hallandale Beach
Hallandale officially became a town on May 14, 1927. By that time, there were 1,500 residents, street lights, and electricity in the community. In 1947, Hallandale was reincorporated as a city, and was allowed to annex land to the east. In August of 1999, the city officially changed its name to Hallandale Beach.

Original Indian Hunting & Gathering Area
The area that is now known as Hallandale Beach was not even settled until the late 1800’s, when Henry Morrison Flagler expanded the Florida East Coast Railway to Palm Beach in 1895. Before then, there wasn’t much to Hallandale Beach except swamp and a gray, sandy soil called marl. The Seminole Indians would hunt in the area and gather cootie root, which was used to produce starchy dough.

First Settlement
Flagler recruited Luther Halland, son of a Swedish minister and brother-in-law to one of Flagler’s agents, to start a Swedish settlement south of the Danish settlement of Dania. With the assistance of an immigrant named Olaf Zetterlund, Halland began promoting the frost-free subtropical climate and cheap land of Halland (later to be named Hallandale). Halland set up a small trading post in the new community and became its first postmaster.

Farming Community
Settlement was slow, with only a dozen families in town by 1900 – seven Swedish, three English, and two black. The first school was built in 1904 and had only ten students. The first church, Bethlehem Lutheran, was established in 1906. Originally, Hallandale was a farming community, with farmers using the beach only for recreation.