New Hampshire dad-of-four and Iraq Army veteran Lamar Austin proudly welcomed the first baby born in Concord this year, with his wife Lindsay, according to the Concord Monitor.
But Austin's 2017 didn't get off to the best start in another way, he says, because when he chose to attend the birth of baby Cainan, it cost him his job. Austin had been working as security guard at Salerno Protective Services for about a month, during a 90-day trial period when he was told if he missed his shift, he'd be terminated.
Austin told the Monitor that during the trial, he was expected to be on call 24/7. And up until the day his wife gave birth, he lived up to that expectation, even covering other employees' shifts. But on December 28, Austin told the Monitor he couldn't cover for another employee who had canceled due to snowstorm and scheduled a doctor's appointment for Lindsay.
"I didn't want to make it seem like I'm trying to miss work or something," Austin explained, adding that at the end of the week, he called out for two days because Lindsay was in labor. "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.'"
When Austin decided to go to the hospital with his wife, he got a text that said "As of now, you are terminated." Oddly, other numbers he didn't recognize were included in the group text. But the joyful new dad decided not to let the bad news ruffle him.
"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," he said.
According to the Monitor, New Hampshire is an "at-will employment" state. That basically means an employer or employee can terminate a work relationship at any time, for pretty much any reason. So Austin will have little legal leg to stand on to fight his employment status.
It's worth mentioning that the company has not specifically verified Austin's claims, instead saying in a somewhat-confusing statement: "Being shrouded in confidentiality we are unable to comment until all business with Mr. Austin has been concluded. SPS is not in the practice of releasing employees for reasons stated in the article published in the Monitor but must be cognizant of the product we give our clients!"
Austin, who has held a series of full- and part-time jobs since serving in the Army, simply says in the end, "Maybe I just wasn't working there long enough for them to want to keep me."
While we don't know all the details of this situation, if Austin was fired just because he missed his shift to witness the birth of his child, this is a beyond-sad commentary on employer policies that support families. I'm not sure how any company could expect to retain good people if they aren't going to even attempt to help employees strike a healthy family/work balance.
I also worry about the Austins, who just welcomed a new baby, and now won't have Lamar's income to count on. Come on, America! Can't we do better than this?
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Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.