US Bank employee says she was fired for giving $20 to struggling customer

'I handed him $20 in cash, said ‘Merry Christmas’ and went right back to work'

A U.S. Bank employee gave $20 of her own money to a struggling customer on Christmas Eve — but says she was fired for the random act of kindness.

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Emily James, a senior banker at a call center in Portland, Oregon, got a call on Dec. 23 from a customer named Marc Eugenio, whose $1,000 paycheck from a new job had been placed on hold, meaning he was essentially broke before Christmas, according to The Oregonian.

Eugenio told James that he would be unable to buy his kids presents, or be able to afford living expenses for several days, KOIN6 reported. After some back-and-forth at a local U.S. Bank branch, Eugenio called James back on Christmas Eve.

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“I said, ‘I wish I had just $20 bucks to get home,'” Eugenio told the Oregonian. “And she said, ‘Wait, hold on.'”

James, who typically handles calls from customers across the country and said it was rare to speak to anyone local, realized that Eugenio was about 14 miles away. She told Eugenio to wait at the gas station he’d called her from and that she’d be there within 30 minutes to deliver him $20.

“I handed him $20 in cash, said ‘Merry Christmas’ and went right back to work,” she said.

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But when she returned to work on New Year’s Eve, the bank’s regional service manager fired her for  “unauthorized interaction with a customer.” James said she received permission from her supervisor, who was also later fired over the incident, before meeting Eugenio.

“They were worried about my safety,” James said. “He could have kidnapped me or shot me. But I wouldn’t have left or even tried to ask if that was OK if I thought that this person would hurt me.”

In a statement to FOX Business, U.S. Bank said that James had not followed its policies.

Operating practices are designed "to protect our customers and employees,” the spokesperson said. “Ms. James was terminated following an internal investigation into her interactions with a customer. During this review, it was determined Ms. James did not use the available solutions to remedy the customer’s situation and instead put herself and the bank at risk with her actions.”

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