Portland Bank Employee Says She Was Fired For Helping A Customer On Christmas Eve With Her Own Money

An employee of a U.S. Bank branch in Portland, Oregon, says that she was fired for going out of her way to help a customer down on his luck on Christmas Eve, The Oregonian reports.

Emily James, a senior banker at a U.S. Bank call center in Portland, said that she got a call from customer Marc Eugenio on December 23. Eugenio allegedly told her that he had just gotten his first paycheck from his new job. However, his paycheck -- about $1,000 -- was "on hold," which meant that Eugenio couldn't access his funds. This allegedly left him essentially broke.

At the time, James said there wasn't much she could do. She told Eugenio to go to his home branch in Clackamas the next morning, Christmas Eve, to talk things over with the branch manager and see if anything could be done. Eugenio allegedly did as he was instructed, but he found an understaffed bank that was in the process of shutting down for the holiday. He was reportedly told that the branch manager had left for vacation, and there was no one in the building who could do anything to get the hold lifted.

"[The woman at the bank] said, 'My hands are tied, I can't do anything,'" he said.

Employees were reportedly locking up the doors behind him as he left.

Eugenio called the customer service toll-free number again. And, as luck would have it, he got onto the phone with James. By this time, Eugenio was allegedly at a gas station without enough money to pay for a tank of gas to get him home.

a customer pumps gas
Pixabay | Skitterphoto

Fortunately for Eugenio, James wasn't going to let a customer be left stranded on her watch.

In her position, James handled calls from throughout the country. It was rare for her to get a call from someone local. However, seeing an opportunity to go above and beyond the call of duty, she got her boss's permission to leave the call center. She drove about half an hour away and gave Eugenio $20 from her own pocket.

"She was the only one helping me," Eugenio said.

After the holidays, James returned to work to find the regional service manager waiting for her. Then and there, James says, she was fired. The reported reason was "unauthorized interaction with a customer."

A U.S. Bank employee, reached on the phone by an Oregonian reporter, declined to comment on the issue, saying that the bank doesn't comment on internal employee matters.

James says that she took her story to the media with the hopes of getting her job back. However, now she's not so sure she even wants to return to U.S. Bank.

"I don't think I would want to continue to work for someone who would do that," she said.