He wanted to be there for his child’s birth, even if it cost him his job
A military veteran and father of four lost his job last week when he had to nerve to attend his child’s birth instead of showing up for work. While his story is appalling on its own, it’s the number of people chiming in with similar accounts that should disturb us most.
According to the Concord Monitor, Lamar Austin, of Concord, New Hampshire, was fired from his job as a part-time security guard on New Year’s Day. His crime? Missing work to be with his wife as she gave birth to their son, Cainan. He told the paper, “I didn’t want to make it seem like I’m trying to miss work or something,” Austin says, after explaining that his wife went into labor on December 30th. “The second day I told my boss, ‘My wife is still in labor,’ and he just said, ‘You’re forcing my hand, if you aren’t in work by 8 tomorrow we are going to terminate you.’ ”
And they did.
— Concord Monitor News (@ConMonitorNews) January 4, 2017
The infant was the first born in Concord this year, and the Monitor covered the birth initially. It was afterward that the paper found out Austin was terminated from his position via text message at 1:00 AM on January 1st. The dad says, “I thought, ‘Family comes before anything else,’ I’m not going to turn my back on them for a job.”
After receiving the text, he says, “I just responded ‘ok.’ I was in the hospital, it was a long night, and I wasn’t trying to argue with nobody about a job while my wife was in labor.”
And who can blame him? During one of life’s most important and meaningful moments, his employer was firing him. No dad doing his dadly (and husbandly) duty would have the energy to fight back. His company, Salerno Protective Services, let him go during a very vulnerable moment. But in the state of New Hampshire, they were, sadly, entirely within their rights.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the company implies that there were other issues at hand when it came to Austin being let go and that his termination the night his child was born was simply poor timing. They also point out that New Hampshire is an employment at-will state, which means that in the absence of a contract, an employee can “quit or be fired at any time for almost any reason, or even for no reason.”
Austin’s situation aside, and whether he already had dings on his 30-day tenure with the company, the birth of a child is not a time where a parent should be concerned about losing their job. Yet, it’s something that seems to happen pretty often, if the Facebook comments on Austin’s story are any indication.
The fact that fathers missing the births of their children or losing their jobs in order to be present is a common enough story to elicit hundreds of like responses speaks to this country’s shameful treatment of working parents. The very political party that preaches family values is also the one balking at paid family leave, which is a brand of hypocrisy difficult to wrap our heads around. Our culture tells men to be present fathers, while some employers are throwing up roadblocks left and right, effectively impeding those efforts.
That’s why it shouldn’t be up to individual employers whether the birth of a child is an occurrence worthy of some leniency and understanding. It should be a given that all fathers are able to be present for their baby’s birth without fear of reprisal from their employer. And with the incoming administration, we have zero hope that any meaningful legislation will be enacted to protect that right.
Luckily for Austin, a GoFundMe page was started to help his family and he’s already received several job offers from companies sympathetic to his plight. But that only fixes things for one father and one family.
Isn’t it about time our country makes this an issue for no one?