Maplewood Aquatic Center lifeguards fired over social media use

Approximately six lifeguards were fired from the Maplewood Family Aquatic Center on Tuesday and more on Wednesday, according to lifeguard manager, Aryanna Carper, one of those fired. Another lifeguard and his parent confirmed the firings.

Carper said Thursday it was over some things said on an Apple group app (GroupMe) that many of the lifeguards used to communicate with each other.

What got Carper and others upset was that most of the use of the app was off-work — “hanging out and going to events together, things like that,” she said. “I guess things in it were inappropriate and people were getting offended.”

See also: Lifeguard firings: ‘raunchy’ jokes were the reason, Lifeguards quit before being fired: Post-Dispatch

She said a group of six or seven lifeguards were called to Maplewood City Hall, and in one-on-one meetings a director from The Heights and a human relations person told them they were fired.

“The HR lady told us we were terminated and we needed to sign this piece of paper, which I think most of us did not do,” Carper said. “I was pretty worked up at the moment she was reading it to me. I said you can keep reading that but I’m not going to sign it without talking to my parents first.”

Carper said more were fired on Wednesday; she estimated it’s up to 16 so far. The Post-Dispatch reported that the final number was eight.

“This is my third summer at the pool, and I’ve never being written up before or warned for anything at all,” Carper said. “I put in a lot of hours there. Our first month of summer we were so understaffed they approved overtime. A lot of people were pushing over 60 hours a week to pick up the slack.”

Parks and Recreation Cooperative Directer Teresa Proebsting directed questions about the firing to Richmond Heights Community Relations Coordinator Mary Binns, who said the firing was over the use of social media, but had no details. She directed 40 South to  Assistant City Manager Pam Hylton, who said she couldn’t comment because it is personnel-related.

64 thoughts on “Maplewood Aquatic Center lifeguards fired over social media use

  1. While these kids are just kids, I can say as someone who is in frequent attendance at this pool, that I have thankfully not seen any horseplay from life guards since this incident. I would see lifeguards dancing to the music on the stands, running around in uniform playing tag, letting kids run around the pool right in front of them without whistling or saying anything to the kids repeatedly, and apparent off duty life guards (in uniform) using squirt guns with kids to distract on duty life guards among other things. While I do think warnings can be effective, it seems like maybe some of the goofballs that were fired weren’t really in the correct summer job to begin with!

  2. These are the same young adults that have taught my 3 children to swim. Each new life guard/ swim teacher they had the opportunity to learn from took their job very seriously. No horse play or dangerous play during classes/ visit to the pool. These are relatively young people with a very serious job that takes skill and training. They deserve an outlet as well as any adult that can relax and unwind and laugh outside of their tedious, stressful and often exhausting and heat filled jobs. I hope it doesn’t come down to anyone being sued but I feel there should have been a warning/write up prior to anyone being terminated. Best of luck if this does not get worked out in their best interest. Though I truly believe they deserve their jobs back and the troll should find a new job or city to live in for all I care. I appreciate these young adults and their hard work and dedication to all of us and our families.

    • It’s hard to judge. If it was repeated harassment of any employee then this action was well justified.

    • These employees were almost certainly employed “at will” and have no basis for a lawsuit.

  3. This is ridiculous. Social media? Or, a private conversation? So was it worth losing good lifeguards because someone has a control issue? Even if there was any social media content to their conversation. Who cares. Was there some dark nasty secret talked about somewhere in the Maplewood community? I highly doubt young seasonal lifeguards would have content in any conversation that would be threatening to the Maplewood community and the city’s reputation.

    • Abusing coworkers should not be tolerated by any organization on or off the clock

  4. I’m moving to Maplewood this weekend and I feel safe knowing that my neighborhood lifeguards won’t be participating in any raunchy talk in private conversations with friends. If I’m drowning in the pool the most important thing to me is that the person pulling my unconscious body out and breathing life back into me has a clean mouth and a clean mind. Thank you Maplewood Aquatic Center PR/PC lady for keeping us safe!

  5. If this was a private group chat (and looking at the app that is what it seems to be), this action was wrong. This wasn’t on Facebook. It wasn’t on Twitter. It was a private group chat, like a group text. It was used outside of work hours. If someone didn’t like the jokes, etc, they could leave at any time.

    This private group chat was more like meeting up at someone’s house. No public pictures. No public posts. The app was not provided by the employer for the lifeguards to use to communicate. The lifeguards being let go for this is an atrocious action.

    Perhaps the private chats and texts of the managers responsible for this action should be perused to see if there is anything that anyone could find objectionable.

  6. Before everyone gets sue happy consider this: Missouri Termination (with Discharge): What you need to know. In Missouri, unless there is an agreement to the contrary, employment is “at will.” This means that either the employer or the employee may end the employment relationship without giving either notice or a reason.

  7. Did they deserve termination? I don’t know and I can’t make an informed decision based on your addition to this one sided story.

  8. Who is left to guard the pool users? Seriously, where are you going to find lifeguards at this time of the summer??

  9. In the mean time, WHO is guarding the pool? This is not the way termination is supposed to happen.

  10. Just another reminder have to what what you post on social media. It will bite you in the butt and ruin your life if not used properly.

  11. I worked there for a summer and we were treated like dirt to be honest. Overreacting and firing people without understanding anything doesn’t seem out of the question for their management. No one is trusted there and it felt like the pool brass was willfully trying to punish us every chance it got (although I didn’t get it nearly as bad as these people did). We even had to pay for our own uniforms and classes, and since we only made $7.50 an hour when j was there I didn’t make a whole lot even though I did work some crazy hours.
    My interview for the job was a series of team building exercises with 2 other candidates. After we’d sort of bonded and gotten to know each other and work as a team, they asked us “what makes you more qualified or this job than the other people here?” That was the final question. After the three of us had learned to work together, the interviewer tried to make us build ourselves up by tearing each other down. It was twisted.
    That being said, I probably know 3/4 of the staff and each and every one of them are good people. And this isn’t coming from a potential friend of those who were fired either, as I was never close with anyone there, but I was always treated with respect by my fellow lifeguards. They were raised right.

    • My kids have worked there for two years, guard supervisors and direct management were great. They paid for their lifesaving classes and they make at least $8 maybe 8.50 an hour. They loved it there, the guards were like a family. This is sooooo unjust and wrong that the immediate supervisors have quit over it. It’s “corporate” for a better lack of terms. What goes around comes around. And it will

  12. It is absolutely ridiculous to judge the administrator who fired the lifeguards without a full understanding of the situation at hand. In other words, how about trusting she deemed the sharing among the lifeguards as egregiously inappropriate? As the head of the place, it’s her call. Teens, however great they can be, don’t rule. They will learn to regret running to the media, because later on in life, they will be the ones in question by future employers. I’ve been a member of the Heights for 16 years (after belonging to several other fitness centers) and work there part-time. I have always been very pleased with the professionalism there. Let the poor darlings find other work and start watching their actions on social media. “Social” media means just that: the word is going to get around.

    • Linda, if it has taken you 16 years at the Heights to get fit, someone has been leading you on and stealing your money. It should take only 2 to 3 months to get fit not years.

      • What a mindless comment. Fitness is a life long commitment not a two month effort.

  13. I’m hoping one of these poor kids who got wrongly fired will fill us in on what exactly happened. It’s a shame knowing these kids did such a great job for our city day in and day out.

  14. I’m happy to help with some details. My child is a lifeguard at the pool and was a part of the group chat. First, and most important, this is not what I would call social media use. These kids all installed a texting app and were simply group messaging each other. Yes, as my child shared, there were messages about parties, swapping shifts, kids meeting and playing volleyball,etc. There was language. There were jokes. They are college students for the most part, they act like college students. BUT THIS WAS IN NO WAY PUBLIC. Why is it this employer feels private messages between lifeguards and friends is any of their business? My understanding of how this became an issue is this: a young man, a coworker of my daughter and her friends, was feeling somewhat rejected by the group. He then showed his mother the messages, and the mother and son together went to management. The reason the boy was having issues with his coworkers???? Perhaps it was the harassment and frequent messaging to all the female lifeguards that was very unwelcome. My daughter shared with me earlier in the summer how this boy was a bit odd and was messaging her often despite my daughter’s relationship that was known to him. She has heard similar reports from many other female lifeguards. I don’t know for certain, but the speculation is this boy was seeking revenge and took screen shots as far back as a year to retaliate against his coworkers. I don’t personally know this boy, but the lifeguards who were fired and all those who have quit in allegiance were great kids. Many in college, many going on multiple years of service at this pool, many never in trouble before. Richmond Heights has made a big mistake. To the parents perusing lawsuits…good for you!

    • Hey Kimberly, I’m a reporter over at the Post-Dispatch. Could you give me a call at 314-340-8145? Would love if you could fill me in. Erin Heffernan

    • I thought one of Snapchat’s main features is that the texts and images quickly disappear after being sent. How then does someone mine texts via screen shots from the past year?

      • “Carper said Thursday it was over some things said on an Apple group app (GroupMe) that many of the lifeguards used to communicate with each other.” From the above article.

        • More accurately (as the article has it wrong), the app GroupMe is made by Skype (which is a Microsoft company). The application can be used on both Apple and Android phones.

    • It seems as though this was a private *work* chat for all employees and you’re only working your kid’s side of the story. How do we know you’re not similar in personality to the boy’s mother whom you describe? What was the harassment? Was it sexual messages? Why didn’t your daughter and other girls bring this to management prior? How do we know your girl and others weren’t picking on this boy for being strange in a public forum of 40 to 50 guards (some ‘private’ chat, being that it includes all the coworkers!) All parents advocate for their child, as should you, and no girl should put up with harassment, but being a former lifeguard myself for a private community and a current manager of a large group of college-aged kids-who all act up often concerning each other and social media and chat-the situation you described-nobody would handle it that way. Seems like they have a little more on your kid than you think.

    • What this whole episode exposes is that something has gone seriously wrong with our society. You cannot excuse inappropriate behavior and bad choices. Now just hold on, did you read that? It says that you cannot EXCUSE it. And that is what you are doing by saying things like they are just kids, it was just a private app, they were just joking, etc. Just because it is your precious child does not mean that he or she did not do wrong and should not face consequences. Having consequences is a vital experience at any time in your life, but especially as you are growing up. If you react this way, you are telling your child that it is alright to behave inappropriately and make wrong decisions without having consequences. You need to teach accountability and responsibility. Yet instead, you are outraged, and some of you are even cheering the notion to sue? It is extremely sad that you do not understand what that kind of attitude actually does, overall, to the rearing of a well rounded human being.

  15. I’m just curious exactly what the kids said to each other that warrants termination. Did they use racial slurs directed to other lifeguards? Did they bully or harass people? What exactly was so bad?

    Also, how did the MFAC administrators get access to this private GroupMe conversation? Was another lifeguard a snitch? The lack of transparency is unfortunate, and I am disappointed in the city employees.

    I’m glad Ms. Carper went to Doug about this, it seems like an unfortunate situation.

      • I read your comment Kimberly and it is still only one side of the story. Even though your child may know some of it, you still don’t know all of it either. Unfortunately, we probably won’t hear the whole story. Did they deserve termination? I don’t know and I can’t make an informed decision based on your addition to this one sided story.

  16. I suspect a lack of common sense on the part of the management. Kinda like when they close the pool for the full 30 minutes after seeing lightening even when the threat clearly passes after 10 minutes. Lack of common sense…

    • That’s a rule that you do not mess with at swimming pools. You have to clear the pool for 30 minutes after every lightning strike and make sure no one is on deck. It’s a safety issue, not a lack of common sense.

      • Lightning is not to be messed with. A relative of mine was standing 16 feet inside a barn when it was struck and he was killed.

  17. As Aryanna’s former boss in Quincy, Illinois, I can assure you that she is an outstanding lifeguard, co-worker, and person. While I cannot speak to the events that took place, I will speak to the fact that Aryanna took her job very seriously, was never negligent on the job, and was a positive role model for the kids she encountered every day. This makes me angry and frustrated that she was treated with such a malicious and callous punishment for something that occurred outside of her work day. I hope the park district understands their error and are working to reinstate these lifeguards to ensure public safety.

    • Aryanna has worked for me as well in Quincy, Illinois. She is kind and compassionate.A great lifeguard, even better person. It frustrates me to see her being treated as if she were a textbook “millennial”. Note: Social Media is a public entity of sharing. Private group messages that do not violate conduct have been held against these young men and women. I hope they have the support so they are not taken advantage of again.

  18. It is outrageous that people have nothing better to do than stir up stuff out of thin air that isn’t even theirs!! Not about them or anything to do with them. To go scrolling back a year into a group chat that was created for fun, friendship and communication, that NO ONE WAS FORCED TO BE PART OF, and seeking tidbits to use as ammunition to get kids fired… what a sad statement about the sniveling person who did this! These kids were good employees, their bosses said so, they were brought back year after year and they had never been in trouble for anything at work. I am
    outraged! And to the petty individual who did this, you just be assured….what goes around comes around. GRRRRR

  19. Just wait, soon Clayton will be taking over our Fire Department along with Richmond Heights, Brentwood and Rock Hill. What will it take to tell our City officials to STOP ! It is sad you are all up in the air about a few part time (summer help) workers. All you can say is “Oh My”. If this five city (ECFC) is not stopped, you will be calling Clayton and asking them your questions. You see, the other four Cities will tell you “It’s not our problem”! So sorry to hear about a few kids but now we are talking about OUR Fire Department. To me that’s a BIG ‘Oh My’. Get informed, get involved and get in your Elective Officials faces! Bring our City back to where it was before. Please don’t fall for the old trick ‘It will save us money’. I have been told that before. As said in a movie, “show me the money”! There is none. You have been warned, now it’s up to you, the voters.

    • Sorry, i know this is not the subject of this serious dicussion, but as it was brought up above i just had to air this out. This fire department thing is wrong. We pay their salaries but have not had a say so. This change should have been put to a vote from each municipality. Once again big brother knows what is best for us dummies. How much more money is the head Honcho going to make above what he would make in his municilality. The Police Departments will be next.

  20. I find it funny that in the beginning of the summer not a single guard,headgaurd, or manager knew not a single simple policy and got to keep their jobs but a little social media use is cause for termination. Sounds to me who ever is running the place needs to be terminated.

  21. Teens will be teens. It’s encouraging that they communicated and spent time together outside of work. This seems like an awfully harsh punishment for social media use, especially if they didn’t receive a warning first. The middle of the season is a bad time to fire lifeguards who knew the routine, especially if they were already working so many hours. My child is in school with some of these kids. I look forward to hearing their side of the story.

    • I have to agree, no warning, just your fired? I think a lawyer might be interested in this mass HR fiasco.

    • To call it social media is incorrect in my eyes. There is nothing public about this. This was a private group chat. Period. In addition, a lot of those affected aren’t teens but responsible college students in their early 20’s. My daughter was involved (not yet fired) and I have encouraged her to put her 2 weeks notice in. This is her 4th summer working as a lifeguard at this pool and she is an excellent employee. The city has made a very big mistake.

  22. 16? How many lifeguards do they employ? That has to be a significant chunk of them, and replacements can’t be just anyone-they have to be certified. Even if there are enough lifeguards not employed elsewhere, which seems unlikely to me, they would presumably be in the same age group, possibly the same social circles, as the ones they just fired.

    I don’t know the exact nature of the social media activity that was deemed inappropriate, but given how many were involved and their relative youth, counseling/retraining would seem to be a more reasonable course than mass termination.

    Can they still operate the pool safely without overworking the remaining staff? Do they have qualified replacements ready to go? Will they have to limit our access to the facility we’re paying for during the heart of the season? If so, this strikes me as an avoidable problem and a failure of management.

  23. Is there a social media acceptable use policy in their handbook that they had to acknowledge before taking the job? I doubt it.

    Were they issued a warning first before termination? I know there’s a lot more to this story, but this sounds like teens being teens. I swim at this pool 3 times a week and the lifeguards don’t slack. Sad to see so many hard working kids ousted when staffing was already an issue.

  24. Meanwhile, six people drowned today because there were no life guards on duty… I’m kidding of course. I certainly hope they have not compromised the safety of the public due to these actions. Working a life guard 60 hours a week doesn’t sound like a great idea.

  25. They were not doing anything drastic. This was way overkill from someone that has control issues at the heights. They have dug their own grave. The lifeguards were wrongly terminated, and people in the Maplewood and Richmond heights community need to stop giving their money to the heights.

  26. Oh My! What exactly were these youngsters doing that was so offensive? This will go viral on the news tonight…

    • Obviously, the cities can’t give any details because it is a personnel matter, but the teenagers will make darned sure that details will be shared. Lots of folks around here read South 40 News.

        • Oh my god Mike shut up with your one side of the story bull crap! You’ve repeated yourself 3 times! You are probably the dad of the creeper that got all these people fired…