HR Strange But True!
August 19, 2004

A public works employee in Largo, Florida, has been fired by the city after missing work last Friday to evacuate his 81-year-old mother from the path of Hurricane Charley, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

The Times reports that last Thursday, 30-year employee James Gesicki learned the hurricane was threatening to strike Tampa Bay, where his mother lived. He told two supervisors that he needed to miss work on Friday to evacuate her to his home. They responded that if he didn't show up for work, he'd be fired.

Gesicki, 61 and a year from retiring, chose to spend Friday attending to his mother. And on Monday, he was fired.

Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert explained the firing to the Times by saying that Gesicki, as a public works employee, was a primary responder. The city relies on such employees to be on the job before storms hit; in the case of public works employees, they must prepare and fuel equipment, Schubert said. Moreover, Schubert added, employees who don't arrive before events like hurricanes may find it impossible to travel afterward.

"When we call you in to work, if you refuse to come to work, we will terminate you," Schubert said.

Gesicki's primary job, however, is clearing weeds and plants from city waterways. His title: spray technician.

Stephen C. Sarnoff, president of the Communication Workers of America union's Local 3179, said Gesicki and another Largo employee who was fired for missing work on Friday--a wastewater treatment plant operator--should not be held to the same standard as police officers or firefighters, the workers most commonly thought of as first responders.

"I don't think the citizens are demanding that these two be fired," Sarnoff said.

The Times reports that all of Gesicki's performance reviews on file list him as meeting or exceeding expectations. He told the newspaper he came to work during several other emergencies but felt he had no choice but to miss this one.

"We are people too," he said. "We have family and we have homes."

Source: St. Petersburg Times

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