Military veteran Lamar Austin of New Hampshire had been working as a security guard for a month when, on the penultimate day of 2016, his wife went into labor with their fourth child.
His boss texted him, demanding that he take over someone else's shift the next day. But when Lamar explained where he was — the delivery room — his boss just wrote back with the ultimatum: "You’re forcing my hand, if you aren’t in work by 8:00 tomorrow we are going to terminate you."
This story will be met with outrage in all the countries where paid parental leave is normal and where workers have the right to take time off for important family reasons. But even Americans, many of whom are completely used to having no leave and no rights as employees, have been shocked and saddened by this story.
It's a good thing Lamar, 30, knew exactly what his priorities were and didn't hesitate for a moment. He wasn't leaving his wife's side until their baby boy had arrived and was safely nestled in their arms.
“I thought, ‘Family comes before anything else.’ I’m not going to turn my back on them for a job,” he resolved. And one hour into the New Year, he received word that he'd been fired.
“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 a few hours later little Cainan entered the world, safe and healthy, with both his mom and dad there to welcome him. As it should be!
When his local newspaper found out about the story, readers were so sympathetic and upset on his behalf that they started organizing. Mother of two, Sara Pereschino, was so angered by the firing that she started a fundraising campaign to support Lamar and his family until he finds a new job. Plus, several union managers and other employers offered him apprenticeships and jobs (reminding people vocally that due to union protections, they offer parental leave).
Within a few days the campaign raised almost $10,000 for the Austins, and now the former soldier just has to decide his next step!
Lamar is overjoyed at how the tides have turned in his favor, confirming the value he places on family after all: “It was hard, but if I have to choose between work and family, I’m always going to pick my family,” he explained, “sometimes you lose something and you get something even better.”