Two Oregon bank employees were fired after one of them gave a customer $20 when he couldn't access his bank funds.
Now after U.S. Bank received widespread criticism over the incident, it has apologized and offered both women their jobs back, a spokesperson for the bank told NBC News on Saturday. The CEO of the bank's parent company has spoken with both women.
It happened Christmas Eve, when Marc Eugenio was having a rough go of it. He told NBC affiliate KGW in Portland that his check from a new job was being held by his bank, U.S. Bank, until it could be verified. He said he had spent hours at a branch hoping the situation could be immediately fixed, but it could not.
"I'm away from my family, this was Christmas Eve. I'm sitting at the bank like I'm working there. Working to beg them, not work, but basically beg to have my own money released," he told the outlet.
Eugenio said employees at the branch told him that the check might clear later that afternoon, so he left.
When he got to his car, he saw he was almost out of gas and drove to a gas station. He said he waited at the gas station praying for his funds to be released so he could fill his tank and drive home. But the bank was not able to verify the check that day.
"I was desperate. Sitting there in the gas station on Christmas Eve, away from my family and I couldn't get home," he told KGW. "I was exasperated. I just wish I had $20 to get home."
Eugenio said he decided to call the bank's customer care number, in a last-ditch effort, for help. He connected with call center representative Emily James and explained the situation.
James, who worked at a call center in Portland, told KGW that she put Eugenio on hold and went to talk to a supervisor, Abigail Gilbert, about what could be done to help.
"I know I can't remove the hold and not get in trouble. It's Christmas Eve, let's get this guy home. Let's do anything," James recalled.
According to The Oregonian, Gilbert gave James $20 and gave her permission to leave and meet Eugenio at the gas station to give him the cash.
“It was just, 'If I can fix this, let’s just fix it,' and that wasn’t a good business decision,” Gilbert said. “It was an emotional decision.”
Eugenio told KGW that he was so surprised by the kind gesture that he cried. That gesture, however, would cost James and Gilbert their jobs.
A few days after James gave Eugenio the money, a regional manager pulled her aside and fired both her and Gilbert.
A bank spokesperson told NBC that James and Gilbert were fired for violating a company policy that prohibits employees from leaving work to meet with unknown customers.
James told The Oregonian that she understands the company was worried about her safety but thought the situation could have been handled differently.
The bank agrees, according to a statement it shared with NBC News on Saturday.
"Our recent employment decision in Oregon did not reflect who we are as a company. U.S. Bank fell short of our and others’ expectations and we sincerely apologize," the statement said. "Our CEO Andy Cecere has personally spoken with both employees and asked them to rejoin the company."
Cecere is CEO of U.S. Bancorp, the parent company of U.S. Bank.
Gilbert agreed to come back as a call center supervisor, while James is still considering a new position with the company, the bank spokesperson said.
"We are committed to understanding how we can learn from these events and make the right changes so they do not reoccur. We are beginning a re-evaluation immediately of our policies and how they are applied to be certain they are flexible and put the customer first, while remaining consistent with our obligation to safeguard customer assets and ensure the safety of our employees," the bank's statement said.