California City Worker Volunteers for Layoff to Save Colleague's Job

Patricia Overy's job was spared, but she gave it up for a co-worker.

March 4, 2010— -- There were no tears when Sharon Singleton got called into her boss' office to be told her job had been eliminated. Those came later.

While Singleton, one of 11 employees let go by the city of Lathrop, Calif., took a day off to figure out her next step, her colleague was quietly deciding to give up her own job to save someone else's.

Patricia "Patti" Overy, a mother of four, said she too was shocked by the layoffs, which claimed two members of the close-knit finance department where she had done accounting work for seven years. Her job was spared.

"I started kind of doing a little soul searching and looking at my situation," Overy said, "and went home and talked with my husband."

She and her husband, a city worker in nearby Tracy, Calif., talked about their finances and their children -- one teenager, a 7-year-old and twin 4-year-olds. They talked about health insurance and the job market. And then they decided together that Overy should give up her job and let someone else take it.

She then requested a meeting with her boss and City Manager Cary Keaten and asked to be laid off.

"I thought I could cope a little better with the loss of a job for awhile than any of my other co-workers," she said.

Overy said she hadn't been considering leaving her job or even looking for a new job when the layoffs were announced. But at 40 years old, she knew she'd have an easier time re-entering the job market than someone who was older -- someone like Singleton.

Overy didn't know her job would be going to Singleton when she offered to leave city hall -- only that her job would go either to Singleton, a city employee for six years, or another middle-aged woman who had worked for the city for 15 years.

Singleton, 63, said she returned to work two days after being laid off and quickly was whisked into the boss' office and told about Overy's offer.

"I was flabbergasted, of course. Just total shock, just kind of stood there," she said. "Then yes, had some tears."

Overy said she was sitting at her desk that day when Singleton came up to her and said, "What are you doing?"

"It was very emotional," Overy said.

After Volunteering for Layoff, 'We'll Be Fine'

Overy gave a farewell speech before the city council and received a round of applause when she was finished.

Keaten was unavailable for comment, but told ABC's Sacramento affiliate KXTV that "she's been the union shop steward for several years, cares about her fellow employees.

"She felt to her and her family, this is something that could work out," he said.

Now at home during the day -- her last day was Tuesday -- Overy said she's not going to look for a job for awhile.

The night of her last day she said, "The twins were like, 'Mommy are we staying home with you tomorrow?' My son says, 'Mom are you going to start taking me to school?'"

"I feel so blessed," she said. "I want to be more of a participant in my kids lives and what they're doing. I'm going to re-evaluate that a little bit."

Things may get a little tighter around the house. Overy said their needs are simple.

"Maybe a little tighter budget," she said. "But we'll be fine."

"Blessed" is the same word Singleton used to describe her own situation.

"I think it was a very wonderful thing that she did," she said of Overy. "I feel very blessed that she did this and I was able to be the recipient of her kindness."