Kim Harris-Robinson’s Story

Twenty-six years ago, Kim Harris-Robinson was a young mother working full time. Her first-born son, Ron, was four months old. Kim knew something was wrong one day when Ron couldn’t seem to calm down. He was generally a happy baby who didn’t fuss much. While she thought he might not be feeling well, Kim felt pressure to go to work the next day and dropped Ron off with his child care provider. But later that day, the provider called Kim and asked her to pick up her son; he had a high fever. Kim took Ron to the doctor, where she learned he had pneumonia and that she must keep him at home. She took off the rest of the week to care for her sick child, while continuing to feel pressure from her employer to return as quickly as possible.

The following week, Kim went back to work and returned Ron to his child care provider. Ron didn’t seem well, but Kim was worried about asking for more time off. Later that day, Kim had to take Ron back to the doctor. Work was still on her mind, and she took a photo of Ron in his hospital gown just in case she had to prove to her boss that he was still sick.

“He’s too little for this. If this worsens, he may not live,” the doctor told Kim that day. She was stunned – and also felt ashamed for not keeping Ron at home.

The doctor said Kim needed to keep Ron at home for a minimum of three weeks. Kim knew that no job was more important than caring for Ron, and talked with her boss about taking the time off. “You don’t have anybody? A neighbor? Somebody?” was his response. So Kim came up with a plan to split the caregiving duties with her family and shared the plan with her boss. “If you are not back at work tomorrow, you don’t have a job,” he said. Kim believed there was no other decision to make. She was fired.

Ron is now 26 years old – and healthy. He says that stories like his mom’s – where parents have to make a false choice between their work and family – are far too common. He says they happen more often in families like his, with skin like his. Ron believes Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance is an opportunity to reduce racial disparities confronting our state, and to make sure that no parent in Minnesota has to face the choices his mom did.