×

Stories of the year: No. 10 – Father fired for attending son’s birth

  • Lamar Austin’s prospects have changed since New Year’s Day as he now has a job with Blay Electric in Concord. Austin helps owner Shawn Bray set up a solar panel in Pelham last week.



Monitor staff
Monday, December 25, 2017

New Year’s Eve last year was a night of ups and downs for Lamar Austin.

Austin got to witness the birth of his son, Cainan – the first baby born at Concord Hospital in 2017.

But the new father was fired from his job as a part-time security guard at Salerno Protective Services in Manchester after he missed two shifts to be with his wife, Lindsay Austin, while she was in labor.

Since New Hampshire is an “at-will employment” state, an employer or employee may generally terminate an employment relationship for part-time or full-time work at any time and for any reason, with few exceptions.

This law meant Salerno was within its rights to fire Austin – even in the face of a significant life event, like childbirth.

Austin, who previously served for 3½ years in the U.S. Army, said he was hired by Salerno in December for a 90-day trial period as a part-time security guard, in which he was expected to be on call 24/7.

Salerno provides security to clients, which include stores and college campuses. The company often hires retired law enforcement or military officials as employees, according to the company’s website.

When Austin got the job, the company told him they were looking for “dependable people,” he said. He was informed that after his 90-day trial period, he would be notified as to whether he would continue to work there. In the month that followed, Austin said he did not miss a shift and often took on shifts for others.

But after he told his boss he would miss a weekend’s worth of shifts due to the birth of his baby, Austin was fired via text message. He decided not to fight it.

“I just responded ‘okay,’ ” he said at the time. “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.”

Austin thought that would be the end of it, but after Lamar, Lindsay and baby Cainan were featured in the Monitor’s story about Concord’s first baby of the year, the family received an outpouring of support from readers who wanted to give them a hand.

Andru Volinsky, a lawyer and executive councilor, said even though Salerno Protective Services was within its legal rights to terminate a probationary employee, they could have reacted differently, given the circumstance.

“Legal niceties aside, this company could have acted more humanely,” he said.

Other people felt similarly. Support came in the form of job offers, and more than $10,000 raised in a GoFundMe account with donations from 440 people in the United States, Europe and Australia.

Austin said he is grateful for the “warm hearts” out there who heard of his situation and offered help.

“I didn’t expect people to care about my story and look out for me,” he said. “I just figured, I lost my job and I would have to try to get back on my feet myself. But I didn’t really have to do that. I had a path already waiting for me.”

Austin ultimately took an apprenticeship as an electrician. He’s currently working at the Federal Aviation Administration headquarters in Nashua. It’s a steady job that offers him health insurance and a retirement plan through the electrical worker’s union, he said.

Lindsay stays home during the day at the Austin house in Pittsfield with Cainan and her and Lamar’s other children. Austin said he hopes to complete the five years of apprenticeship and become a journeyman.

“This job gets better and better by the day,” he said recently.