Emily James Portland U.S. Bank employee fired for giving $20 of her own money to bank customer after glitch left him broke over the Christmas holidays.
An Oregon banker who gave $20 of her own money to a struggling customer on Christmas Eve — has told of been fired days later by her employer.
Emily James, a senior banker at a US Bank call center in Portland, got a call on Dec. 23 from customer Marc Eugenio whose $1,000 paycheck from a new job had been placed on hold — leaving him essentially financially moribund, The Oregonian reported.
The glitch left him unable to buy his kids Christmas presents, along with unable to afford his living expenses either, KOIN 6 reported.
A case of values or obeying employer protocol?
After some back and forth with a local US Bank branch, Eugenio called James back at the 800 number on Christmas Eve.
‘I was a customer of U.S. Bank, I needed help, and she went above and beyond,’ said Marc Eugenio of Clackamas. ‘I felt so bad. She was the only one helping me.’
‘I said, ‘I wish I had just $20 bucks to get home,” Eugenio added. ‘And she said ‘Wait, hold on.”
James — who handled calls from customers across the country and said she rarely spoke to anyone local — decided to personally deliver $20 to Eugenio, who was only about 14 miles away.
‘I handed him $20 in cash, said ‘Merry Christmas’ and went right back to work,’ James said.
But when James returned to work on New Year’s Eve, the bank’s regional service manager fired her for having ‘an unauthorized interaction with a customer.’
“She said, ‘We’re sorry, we cannot keep your employment,’’ James recalled.
‘They were worried about my safety,’ the senior banker 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.’
‘Do I want to work for an entity whose moral values do not align with mine?’
Eugenio has called James’ firing ‘ridiculous.’
Eugenio said he eventually did get the check cleared but not until several days after Christmas.
‘It was one of the saddest Christmases,’ he said. ‘Promissory notes for Christmas gifts. And I can’t believe [James] lost her job over it. The only one who seemed to care was Emily, and she got fired for that.’
James said she’s never been disciplined on the job, having been awarded more than a dozen certificates, accolades and awards over the course of her two years of employment at US Bank.
James said her original motivation in sharing her story was to get her job back. Now, she’s not so sure.
‘I can’t change the world but I can change the world for that one person,’ she told KOIN 6. ‘I would rather my morals align with someone who’s more willing to support someone like that than someone who’s willing to throw away two-and-a-half years and a lot of dedication.’