By editorial board • 

Truly putting people first would be welcome change

A time-worn saying has it, “No good deed goes unpunished.” And it was once again proven true over the Christmas holiday, this time by US Bank.

Here’s the backstory, which should deliver a ringing message to the halls of power, corporate and governmental alike. It comes courtesy of The Oregonian:

Two days before Christmas, senior banker Emily James got a call from customer Marc Eugenio. He’d had a hold placed on his first check from a new job, and was dead broke.

She spent an hour trying to help, but to no avail. She advised him to visit his Clackamas branch the next day and ask the manager for help verifying sufficient funds.

Eugenio followed suit, but learned the bank was closing early for Christmas Eve, the manager was on vacation and no one else was prepared to step in. The staff ushered him out and locked the door behind him.

He recalled the nice woman at the Portland call center, and decided to give her a try. He told her, “I wish I just had $20 for gas,” figuring presents for his kids could wait.

James got her supervisor’s permission to meet Eugenio at the 76 station at 122nd and Sunnyside with gas money from her own pocket. “I handed him $20 in cash, said ‘Merry Christmas,’ and went right back to work,” she told reporter Samantha Swindler.

James had been commended more than a dozen times. A Silver Shield Award from 2018 asserted: “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 your work.”

But on New Year’s Eve, US Bank fired her for “unauthorized interaction with a customer.” For good measure, she told Swindler, the bank also fired the supervisor who had, in fact, authorized that very interaction.

James initially went public in hopes of getting her job back, but has since had second thoughts. She confided to Swindler, “I don’t think I would want to continue to work for someone who would do that.”

In our view, the bank should have showered her with praise, perhaps even made plans to feature her act of kindness in its next ad campaign. After all, her selfless act underscores its corporate mantra, “We put people first.”

Even if the bank felt its oft-honored employee and her supervisor committed an error in judgment, couldn’t it have settled for slipping quiet reprimands into their personnel files?

Sometimes humorless, heavy-handed corporate and governmental bureaucrats become their own worst enemies. They sacrifice common sense in the mindless worship of regulatory minutiae.

McMinnville resident Sanda Ponto confessed in last week’s Viewpoints to having periodically made payments out of her own pocket during 13 years working in collections at Willamette Valley Medical Center. But at the age of 61, she lost her beloved job when the hospital centralized billing operations in Nashville, leading her to observe, “It’s sad corporations don’t value their employees anymore.”

Indeed. And often, they don’t treat their customers and constituents any better.