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Entries in Lifeguards (3)

Friday
Sep072012

Calif. Lifeguards Lose Job Over Popular YouTube Video Imitation

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EL MONTE, Calif.) -- The popular YouTube dance music video “Gangnam Style” has not only gone viral, it’s indirectly gotten a group of California lifeguards fired.

Korean pop singer PSY’s video -- which starts on a beach, as PSY demonstrates his “horse-riding dance” and begins singing about longing for a girl who is "tender and big-hearted” by day, but wild and fiery by night -- inspired the lifeguards to create their own spoof, “Lifeguard Style.” Lifeguards clad in red suits dance, swim together, thrust their hips and generally have a grand time.

But when El Monte city officials saw the video, they were less than impressed. In a written statement released to ABC affiliate KABC the city said:

“There was a clear unauthorized use of city resources and property, including the use of city-issued uniforms during the making of this unauthorized video. The city maintains that it holds all employees to a higher standard.”

 

El Monte city officials cited that the content of the video was not what led to the firing; rather it was the “unauthorized use of a city facility for the group’s private benefit.”

One of the fired lifeguards, 22-year-old Michael Roa, said he was shown the video by a friend in the break room and thought the video was “hilarious” and decided to do his own with his fellow lifeguards.

“We wanted to commemorate a great and successful summer for the pool and to make memories with people that we worked with,” he said. “We wanted to have something to look back on as a fond memory of the pool. We never thought it would turn out to be what it has become.”

Roa said he was told by the El Monte city manager that the video was “disgusting” and an “embarrassment” to the city.

“I uploaded it to YouTube as a way to show it to my friends, not for fame, and there was no malice and I wasn’t looking for monetary gain or to give the city a bad image,” Roa said. “I can’t really express how frustrated I am with the rash decisions that they’re making.”

The El Monte city manager could not be reached for comment. Nor could the mayor.

Roa said he knew that when he was called into a meeting with the city manager it was because of the video, but he said he had no idea what form of punishment would be pursued. He also said the video’s aftereffects proved far worse than he initially thought.

“I am extremely frustrated to hear that even though I was the one who orchestrated it all and the ones who didn’t know they were being filmed were fired,” Roa said. “My supervisor and pool manager were both fired, and the pool manager wasn’t even in the video and my supervisor was in it briefly, maybe four times unknowingly.”

The pool manager was fired because he did not “alert city officials about the video,” Roa said.

As a graduate student at the University of La Verne in La Verne, Calif., Roa said the lifeguard job helped 13 of the 14 lifeguards pay for their college tuition.

“It helped me supplement my college education with student loans, and now I don’t have this income,” he said. “I also know a lot of the employees who were fired do not have any other jobs that help pay for it.”

The 14 fired lifeguards have started a Facebook petition page to campaign for their jobs back. Roa said the community has already been sending an outpouring of support his way.

“I have been working at the aquatic center for seven years,” Roa said. “Because of our service we have a lot of support within the local community and it is a great confidence booster. I was always excited to go to work and see the kids I teach and to know the community cares as much I care, it means a lot.”

The original video titled “Gangnam Style,” has been viewed more than 117 million times on YouTube and has already created a celebrity buzz surrounding singer PSY, who was featured on Thursday night’s MTV Video Music Awards and was signed as client of Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul062012

Fired for Rescue, Florida Lifeguard Will Get City Keys

ABC News(HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.) -- On July 9, Hallandale Beach officials will present former lifeguard Tomas Lopez, 21, and his co-workers who supported him, with the keys to the city for their courageous actions.

According to the press release, the man Lopez and his fellow lifeguards helped to save in the near-drowning incident on July 2 will meet his rescuers for the first time.

“It’s an amazing honor, really,” said Lopez. “But honestly the point of this is to discuss what we’ve been fighting for.”

Lopez said he and his fellow former lifeguards are hoping to change the rule in place that prohibited them from saving lives outside designated beach coverage zones. He said he hopes the city will have a plan in place should someone need rescuing outside the patrol zone.

Lopez had been working as a lifeguard in Hallandale Beach for only four months when he was fired on Monday for leaving his post to save a man who was drowning in unprotected waters.

While the private contractor hired to provide lifesaving services for the city’s beaches offered Lopez his job back Thursday, Lopez declined.

When asked if Lopez would want to help the city create a new policy for beach safety, he said he would consider it.

“At this point, I still have school to worry about,” he said. “But I would be a part of it if need be.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug182011

Lifeguard Refuses to Wear Speedo, Sues for Age Discrimination

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A 61-year-old lifeguard is suing New York for age discrimination because he wasn't allowed to wear his preferred swimsuit during an annual qualification test.

Roy Lester of Long Beach, N.Y., has always worn swim jammers -- tight shorts that end a couple inches above the knee. But in 2007, when he showed up to complete his re-hire evaluation at Jones Beach on Long Island, he says, the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation didn't allow him to take the test.

The swimsuit regulations on the state parks department website say all lifeguards taking the qualifying test for Long Island beaches must wear boxers, briefs or board shorts, a regulation, Lester says, he had never encountered until 2007.

"The older you get, the less skin you should show," said Lester, who had been a lifeguard on Jones Beach for decades. "Basically, the state's been trying to get rid of the older guys. They really don't like older lifeguards."

Lester said the jammers had never been a problem in the past during the re-hire test. Neither board shorts nor boxers are an option, he said, because they inhibit speed, a key component of the timed test.

To qualify as a Long Island lifeguard, candidates must swim 100 yards in 75 seconds or less, in addition to taking three other timed tests. Lester, who has completed triathlons in his jammers, recently came in second during this year's National Lifeguard Championships. To maintain speed during the re-hire test, his only other option, he said, would be the revealing Speedo, a swimsuit he refuses to wear.

The parks department said it cannot comment on pending litigation, but spokesman Dan Keefe said, "I can say we do not discriminate based on age."

Lester said other older lifeguards on Long Island want to wear jammers, too, but "I was the only one who stood up." As a result, he says he lost his post as chief negotiator of the lifeguard union at Jones Beach because he's now working for a private beach.

Lester's 2007 complaint was investigated by the New York State Division of Human Rights, according to an agency document. The agency dismissed the claim that year, saying there was "no probable cause" to believe the parks office engaged in discriminatory hiring practices.

Of the 271 lifeguards hired for the 2007 season, 80 ranged in age from 40 to 80 years old, and six were the same age as Lester, the parks department said during the investigation.

"Therefore," the Division of Human Rights wrote, "it is not reasonable to believe that the respondent denied the Complainant the privilege of taking the re-hire exam because of his age" which was, at the time, 57.

The Division of Human Rights never contacted him, and their rationale for dismissing the case "really doesn't make any sense," Lester told ABC News. He appealed, but his appeal was dismissed because it had been filed two days after the 60-day statue of limitations expired.

He tried to take the new hire lifeguard test in 2008, according to court documents, and was denied once again because he was wearing his jammers. He sued again in 2009. This time his lawsuit focused on the new hire test, instead of the re-hire test. That case was also dismissed by the New York State Supreme Court in Nassau County.

Last week, however, the suit was reinstated by an appeals court.

Lester, a bankruptcy attorney who has been working as a lifeguard for the past two years at private Atlantic Beach on Long Island, is representing himself in the case, which is expected to go to trial later this year or next.

"I think I have a very strong case," he said. "It's just telling the truth of what happened."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio