Punishing the Good Samaritan


Being a Good Samaritan comes naturally to some people. Others have to work at it, but either way, unselfishly helping others is a virtue, not a transgression. But when altruism leads to getting fired, it's no surprise that we find an increasing number of people turning away when others are in need.

One recent case of a Good Samaritan getting punished is that of Colin Bruley, 24, who was fired June 12 after he saved a woman's life in the Florida apartment complex where he both worked and lived. His termination papers accuse him of 'gross misconduct,' mainly because he carried a shotgun with him while administering first aid to a neighbor who had been shot.

The story, which first appeared in the Florida Times-Union, in Jacksonville, is that Bruley worked as a leasing agent for an apartment complex owned by Village Green Companies, one of the largest rental property companies in the United States. Part of his compensation was reduced rent, so he lived at the same property where he worked.

Through a fortunate chain of events, I was able to connect with Bruley via telephone. A little before 2:00 am on the morning of June 12, Bruley heard a neighbor screaming that she's been shot. He didn't know who the shooter was, how bad the person had been shot, or if the shooter was still around. What he knew was a neighbor had been shot, so grabbed his shotgun for protection and went out to help the victim.

He didn't do this Rambo-style. He advanced on the scene alongside his neighbor, a man who had served in the US Navy for 21 years.

When they found the woman lying on a third-floor balcony, she was bleeding profusely from the leg. Having worked previously at a hospital transferring patients from Life Flight helicopters to the emergency room, Bruley diagnosed the gunshot to have caused a femoral artery wound. He handed his gun to the retired Navy man and performed emergency first aid while waiting for the police to arrive.

The next morning, Bruley received word that the woman spent several hours in emergency surgery getting her artery repaired.

But Bruley was called to the manager's office that evening and fired via teleconference by his area director. She told him when he heard the woman screaming she'd been shot, he should have first called the property manager, then the area director, and then the police, after which he should have waited in his apartment for the police to arrive.

"That would have been a dumb thing to do," Bruley told me. "This woman had been shot. The situation needed immediate attention. The property manager doesn't even live on the property, and the area director is in a different state – in Ohio. I didn't even have her phone number."

After getting more details from Bruley, I was even more astonished at the brashness of his employer's decision to fire him. They didn't collect statements from any of the five eyewitnesses. They didn't consider Bruley's background or the details behind the particulars.

Three months earlier Bruley received a commendation from the company for diffusing a fight and treating the wounds of a man hit in the head with a baseball bat.

At age 18 he took life support/first responder training, took nursing classes at college, and worked at a hospital- with a lot of experience transferring patients to the emergency room.

He was raised in a family that hunted a lot, and knew how to handle a shotgun. His shotgun had only one shell in it, and it was bird shot. About enough to tick someone off, but not enough to take someone down.

Everything is not black and white. Each situation is unique, and the increasing frequency of Good Samaritans getting punished is a disturbing trend.

Bruley said "I can see them terminating me if I was firing off rounds or if I had shot someone. But I didn't do that. I saved a woman's life."

After talking with this young man, needless to say I was impressed. And I believe he acted with courage, honor, and principled values.

Employees are growing increasingly wary of stepping out to help others because of spineless jellyfish employers like Village Green Companies — who won't take the time to consider the specifics of each case.

If something even whiffs of a political hot potato, firing people is easier than having to defend their employees' honor and dedication to helping their fellow human beings.

Such is NOT an example of workplace excellence.

PS. For a more comprehensive review of what Colin and I talked about, you can read My conversation with Colin Bruley and also My follow-up conversation with Colin Bruley at my personal blog, workplace-excellence.com

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Dan Bobinski is a training specialist, author, and an accomplished keynote speaker. He's been providing management and leadership training to Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller, regional concerns for more than 20 years.

Older Comments

Ya. Not surprised. In a much smaller and ironic way, I was a team leader in a company. One member who was good at her job, but had a very 'bossy' personality was under the watchful eye of the owner, a spineless jellyfish who couldn't tolerate people with leadership qualities. The owner confidentially told me that this person would be fired for nothing but her personality and communication style (direct, honest). Another junior member did a lousy job in her work, work I was responsible for quality control over. After pulling the entire team together to protect the team member by giving her coaching and mentoring and providing direct/honest feedback to the junior worker - I was fired. So much for helping others improve....


Rachel, your story is definitely a parallel: Punished for trying to help others.

Isn’t it interesting: Employers do this sort of thing'which creates an atmosphere of “why try?” 'and then wonder why employees won’t step forward and take initiative.

Dan Bobinski Boise, Idaho

Careful not to use a broad brush stroke to describe 'employers' in general. Employers are like people, there are far more good ones than bad, but the bad get all of the press and are remembered the most!

I feel for Colin and for other employees that are fired for doing the right thing. BUT, and that is a big BUT, sometimes there is more to the situation than we might know. In this case, it sounds more like iodiocy at work, but having been on both sides of the issue as an employee and an employer, I am not quick to judge, but instead support through empathy those that are affected without demeaning the other party.

Bo Carrington