Is it fair for fathers to be fired for attending their child’s birth instead of work??
For many, this may seem like a dumb question, but on December 31st, Lamar Austin, a 30-year-old New Hampshire resident rushed to the hospital, sitting by his wife’s side as she started to go into labor. Austin, a proud father of his new son Caiman, had to sacrifice his job in order to stay at the hospital with his wife and watch the birth of his son.
Austin worked as a part-time security guard for Salerno Protective Services, and they fired him for not attending his shift even though he had a perfect attendance for all other shifts. Austin is a military veteran and committed father of four children, so hearing the news was an immense disappointment.
This story really hit home for me, because I have personal photos of me as a newborn with my parents holding me. I could not imagine the emotional stress that my mom would have felt if my father would not have come to the hospital due to work reasons. Family does come first and always will.
It is disturbing that fathers should even have to choose between being with their family on such a special day or working a shift at work. I personally believe that these issues could be fixed if the United States had better paternity leave.
President Barack Obama stated in a weekly address, “Family leave, childcare, flexibility—these aren’t frills. They’re basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses—the should be the bottom line.”
A father’s involvement and care for his newborn is just as important as the mother’s, but the criteria to be eligible for parental leave is strict and in my opinion, unfair. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act, men must work for an organization with a minimum of 50 employees, and they must have accumulated 1,250 of work in the past 12 months before taking leave. The FMLA does not even guarantee paid leave, so many fathers either cannot financially afford to leave or they do not see it as socially acceptable.
From a legal standpoint, the Concord Monitor states that since New Hampshire “is an ‘at-will’ employment state, an employer may generally terminate an employment relationship for part-time or full –time workers at any time and for any reason, with a few exceptions.” So unfortunately by law, Austin cannot sue or make a case, since his contract authorizes the company to fire for any reason.
We must encourage fathers to utilize their federal rights for paternal leave so it will become more socially acceptable in society. If men see other fathers taking off work to care for their family, it will become a social norm and not viewed as an unusual chore. Fatherly leave needs to be a federal right, not a bonus from a tiny number of companies in this country. Fathers have a duty to start teaching their children and caring for them at a young age, and in the 21st century, it is time to start splitting parental duties and focusing on how to build the best families.
Feature Image Source: Max Pixel