Moving to bring their maternity leave policy in line with those in surrounding cities, West Covina officials have significantly increased the time off work a healthy employee may take after she has a baby.
The new policy allows women to take up to four months off without a doctor's excuse or supervisor's prior approval. Under the old policy, women could take between six and eight weeks, including sick days, of paid time off. But they were allowed to extend their leave to four months of paid time off if they received a doctor's excuse, or if a supervisor granted an unpaid leave of absence.
The City Council on Monday voted 5 to 0 to make the changes in the city's personnel rules.
Women will be allowed to use vacation time, sick days and unpaid leave-of-absence as part of their leaves. Fathers will also be allowed to take up to four months unpaid time off, but will not be able to claim it as sick time, said Brenda L. Diederichs, West Covina personnel director.
State law guarantees women up to four months off while they are disabled due to pregnancy, said Deputy State Atty. Gen. Marian Johnston. The change in West Covina's policy "is greater than the law requires," she said, adding: "They should be commended."
Diederichs said the policy change proposal came up at a city management meeting six months ago. Officials were concerned that the old policy would hinder recruitment efforts and cause them to lose qualified employees to cities with more generous maternity leave policies.
Diederichs said a city survey in June of 17 cities--eight of them in the San Gabriel Valley--showed that West Covina was lagging behind in maternity leave policies.
The change delighted women employees.
"It was a nice surprise," said Betty Brown, a board member of the West Covina General Employees Assn. "I could have benefited from it five years ago when my son was born.
"I needed time to adjust to a whole new role. My first week back at work, my mind was on my baby, not work. Also, I had to take the baby for check-ups, doctor appointments. I had drained the pool, as far as vacation and sick days."
Barbara Briley a secretary in the Maintenance Department, said that the new policy is "absolutely how it should be."
"I went through a hassle with (the city) when I had my second baby. They wanted a doctor's (excuse)," she said. "The doctor said I was (physically) ready to return to work, but I wasn't emotionally. It was absolutely ridiculous."
The new West Covina policy will apply to employees now on maternity leave. Sharon Frasca-Williams, a community service officer for the West Covina Police Department, was thrilled when she heard that. She had her second baby Aug. 21.
"Four months will be great," she said. "It will give me time to be a mom. My children will have a chance to get to know me. I'll have time to potty train the oldest one."
"I usually work 50 hours a week. I live in Upland, and with the commute time, the only activities I had with my first child were feeding her in the morning and taking her to day care. In the evening, I would pick her up, feed her and put her to bed."