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‘Gangnam Style’ lifeguards get their jobs back, then resign

Published: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 9:25 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — LOS ANGELES — The summer swim season is long over, but some of the city lifeguards in El Monte, Calif., fired for spoofing a hugely popular Korean pop video finally got their jobs back — only to resign immediately.

Officials in the city east of Los Angeles fired 13 lifeguards and their manager in September, days after they made a video inspired by the global hit “Gangnam Style.” Because they were wearing city-issue red trunks and the filming occurred at the city aquatics center, it was deemed an inappropriate use of city resources.

The spoof, titled “Lifeguard Style,” became an Internet hit, getting about 2.5 million views on YouTube. Supporters of the fired lifeguards included Psy, the Korean rapper behind “Gangnam Style.”

In mid-October, Mayor Andre Quintero said he wanted to rehire the employees, after launching an investigation into their dismissal and noting the need for a “deeper look at the management” of El Monte’s aquatics center. In a split vote, the City Council supported his suggestion, intending to give the group of college-age kids a chance to clear their personnel records.

In November, Dayle Keller, interim city manager, and Manuel Carmona, representing El Monte’s human resources department, started meeting with individual lifeguards to review their situation. Michael Roa, who lost his lifeguarding job shortly after posting the video spoof, said he told them that he was eager to “leave on good terms.”

Now, having won reinstatement, allowing him to officially resign by letter, he notes: “I’m just relieved. Now I can move on and apply for other jobs.”

Roa, who has a psychology degree from Loyola Marymount University, is in a master’s program at the University of La Verne, studying marital and family therapy. He lives with his parents to cut costs. And since losing his source of income, he applied for other lifeguard openings and to be a swim instructor at a fitness center.

“We can’t lie on our application,” he added. When potential “employers figure out we’ve been fired, no one wants to give us a chance,” Roa said.

“Finally, I hope it’s over,” he added. “Our video was for entertainment, we didn’t mean to offend, and I hope our reputation is preserved.”

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