Hero Fired - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Hero Fired

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Jimmie Singleton Jimmie Singleton

He tried to help a woman who was being verbally assaulted. He got beat up, and when he recovered, he got fired for missing work. Sounds too bad to be true, but it's not. And his question -- can you be fired after trying to help someone? -- is why he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

WSVN -- We met up with Jimmie Singleton in a park for a very good reason.

Jimmie Singleton: "No, I don't have a place to live. I sleep in a park at night. I am urban camping."

If you watch 7News, Jimmies face might look familiar. A few months ago he was seen riding on a bus.

Jimmie Singleton: "On the city bus this young lady was being verbally assaulted, sexually -- uh, how would one put it? -- sexually proposed to."

The pregnant woman was frightened, and moved over next to Jimmie to get away from the jerk, who kept running his mouth making sexual advances.

Jimmie Singleton: "And this guy just would not shut up about it, and I spoke up about it. I said, 'Let it ride, let it go. You're not going to get anywhere.'"

The suspect didn't appreciate someone standing up for the woman, so as you can see, he jumped up and attacked Jimmie.

Jimmie Singleton: "And so I got three broken ribs, partially collapsed lung."

Two weeks earlier, Jimmie had just started working for one of those companies that calls people to try to sell them a cruise. Jimmie let his boss know he was a little banged up and wouldn't come to work for a while.

Jimmie Singleton: "I told them what had happened. I was in a bus incident. I was assaulted. I am going to be in the hospital for a few days. I will get back with hi,."

Jimmie says he spoke to them three different times. A few weeks later, he was ready to go back to work.

Jimmie Singleton: "I talked to somebody from human resources who didn't have much to say except, 'Well, you are not here anymore.'

Patrick Fraser: "'You're fired.'"

Jimmie Singleton: "Pretty much."

Now, Jimmie says he didn't regret getting beaten up to help a pregnant woman, but losing his job because of it makes him wonder if he made the right choice.

Jimmie Singleton: "There's too many penalties to pay for it. Had I known I was going to lose my job, I might have thought about it, even at that time."

Well, Howard, he got beat up because he tried to help a pregnant woman who was being verbally assaulted. Can his boss fire him for missing work while he recovered?

Howard Finkelstein: "As we have talked about, Patrick, employers can fire an employee for almost any reason. In this case, he is an independent contractor, meaning he isn't even an employee of the company."

I called the cruise line. They told me they subbed out their phone solicitation to other companies. I called the business Jimmie worked for. They didn't return any calls, but as Howard said, legally, Jimmie is considered an independent contractor, and for that reason, the Family Medical Leave Act doesn't protect him.

Howard Finkelstein: "If he was an employee of the company, if it was a medium-to-large company and he worked there for at least a year, the Family Medical Leave Act would give him protection and cover him and protect him from being fired."

But the story has a happy ending. A few days ago, Jimmie told me he got a job as a hairdresser, his normal occupation. He is now back on his feet. You can't call him homeless and, he says, don't call him a hero for helping the woman on the bus.

Jimmie Singleton: "To call me a hero would pretty much in my mind belittle people who have gone to Afghanistan, Iraq, etcetera, and have gone to combat situations. Those are heroes. I am not a hero."

OK, we'll call him a helper instead of a hero. And by the way, if you know the guy who attacked Jimmie, police would like a Christmas present: his name, so they can arrest him. And we mentioned the Family Medical Leave Act. How do you know if you are covered? Contact your human resources department or check the Labor Department's website to see if you qualify.

A bad situation beating you up? Ready to see a hero spring into action? When they don't show up, contact us. Hopefully we will leave you fired ... up. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Family Medical Leave Act

http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com

Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN

Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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