A Paternity Leave Story: San Bernardino at the Dinner Table

Despite Netflix making big news with its one-year paid parental leave policy, many US companies still offer no paid parental leave at all. According to SHRM’s 2015 Employer Benefits Survey, only 21% of employers offered some type of paid maternity leave in 2015, while 17% offered paid paternity and/or adoption leave. So, I recently jumped at the chance to spend extra time with my infant daughter upon learning that my company was among those offering paid paternity leave.

Being home for two weeks on paternity leave meant a big change in my routine. Instead of being an hour away in an office building, I was suddenly the parent on the firing line when our older child—a precocious 8-year-old boy–came bounding home from school. This meant I was the one who first heard about his day. And one of those days led to this cringe-inducing exchange as we sat down to dinner.

“Dad, are Muslims bad people?”

“Every religion has good and bad people,” I responded as evenly as I could, wondering where we were heading. I didn’t have to wait long to find out.

“Did you know there were two people who went to an office holiday party in California. And they had guns! And a lot of people died! Where’s the best place to get shot and live?”

While racking my brain for some quick football or baseball reference to change the subject, he was not done. “Daddy, did you ever hear about a guy who went into a movie theater with a gun someplace, I think it was Colorado?”

It turned out Time Magazine for Kids, which he enjoys reading at school, had an article about the recent San Bernardino shootings along with a couple of other tragedies, which had led the teacher to mention them in class.

Amazed that yes, his dad did know about the Colorado theater shootings too, we segued into a discussion about what to do if a bad person ever came to school. It made me wonder about work too.

Are employers having these discussions with their employees? If not, they should be. Most employers have one or more employees whose departure may not have been of their choosing. That doesn’t include those employees still on the job who, though accomplishing their daily tasks, may be disgruntled or disaffected in one way or another.

And many violent acts, while of a non-life threatening variety, are nonetheless deadly serious. So workplace violence prevention needs to be at the top of employer to-do lists.

Sometimes, the signs pointing to a potentially violent employee may not be obvious. This certainly appeared to be the case with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. But supervisors need to be vigilant.

The remainder of my paternity leave continued with discussions of just slightly less import, featuring such earth-shattering questions as:

  • What time did my sister have her nap?
  • Why didn’t the teacher call on me today?
  • Why do people park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?

And yes, that last one is a George Carlin saying I’ve taught him that he loves. Paternity leave is a wonderful thing. And I am glad we had a discussion about the San Bernardino holiday party attack than sweeping it under the rug, however awkward it may have been.

Raising these issues at work, while not at an 8-year-old’s level, is just as important. Some incidents may be impossible to avoid, but discussing workplace safety and any building security issues employees may have is at least a start.

What steps is your employer taking to make its workplace safer? Let us know by leaving a comment below.