A CEO Hands Out a Pink Slip - to Herself

It happens all too often in this country: a boss calls in employees to announce layoffs. But it doesn't usually happen the way it did at a company in central Florida. CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann has the story of a boss with a heart and the American Spirit.

At Accurate Background Checks, they screen job applicants for other employers and earlier this year everyone here spotted the same problem: In a tough economy, this business was in trouble, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann

"We woke up and the sky was falling," said founder and CEO Lola Gonzalez.

Lola called in all eight employees.

"I said I have to let somebody go," Lola told CBS News.

To submit an idea for The American Spirit send us an email.

Lydia Estremera said, "Uh-oh."

Lydia's heart stopped for a minute.

"Oh my god," thought Lydia. "What am I gonna do now? It could be anybody."

Then Lola surprised everybody.

"I did my best Donald Trump, took a deep breath, and said that person is me," said Lola.

The CEO cut the biggest salary. She fired herself.

"I was in shock," said Estremera. "Where do you hear this? Where do you hear the owner is going to cut themselves off to save somebody else?"

But the boss still had to tell her family.

"I thought she was joking," said Lola's husband Marcos Gonzalez.

Marcos is a construction foreman, but laid-off, like many people in Ocala. The unemployment rate is more than 14 percent here.

And his wife had just walked away from a six-figure job.

"I really went crazy. I couldn't believe it," said Marcos. "I was scared. It was a moment where - what the heck are you doing?"

"I feel that I'm responsible not only for my family - as my husband is - but also for my employees' families."

Without any real plan - but within a month of laying herself off - Lola Gonzalez had a new job working as a community organizer. To her, the job's a hit, but so was the pay cut, a 60 percent drop.

She loves her new job at Devereux Kids linking needy people with social services.

But with her new paycheck, her family has also had to sacrifice.

"I'm proud of my mom," said Lola's son Ali Gonzalez. "We're a family."

Lola still drops by the business she still owns, where everyone else still has a job.

"I'm very, very grateful because that means there's still income coming in," said Lydia. "I'm able to pay my bells and continue."

And that's just what the boss wanted.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.