DeSoto becomes first city in North Texas to offer city employees paid family leave
- Written by Loyd Brumfield Loyd Brumfield
- Published: 03 April 2019 03 April 2019
DeSoto, TX - The city of DeSoto became the first in North Texas to offer paid family leave to city employees as the City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a measure to offer three paid weeks off after the birth of a child.
Loud applause greeted the outcome after council member Candice Quarles made a motion to approve the measure, which passed after more than an hourlong discussion.
The policy also will include the city's police and fire departments, which generated some concern in discussions in the weeks leading up to the vote because those departments are governed by a three-person civil service commission.
"In the plainest language I can say, we've got to have police and fire included in this," Quarles said before she made her motion.
Previously, Quarles — who spearheaded the measure after first bringing it to the city's attention in 2017 — had hoped to enact a policy providing six paid weeks off for mothers and three weeks off for fathers and others associated with maternity leave, but civil service concerns over policies that might be perceived as discriminatory based on gender led to the reduction in time.
"I'm just grateful it's a done deal," Quarles said Wednesday. "I'm always hesitant until that final vote is taken."
Council member Candice Quarles speaks in favor of creating a paid parental leave program for city employees in DeSoto -- a plan that she spearheaded -- during a city council meeting, Tuesday April 2, 2019 at the Jim Baugh Government Center in DeSoto. (Ben Torres/Special Contributor)
During Tuesday's meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Proctor voiced concerns over the legality of including employees governed by civil service that had come up during an executive session. City Attorney Joe Gorfida said he provided "legal advice" during executive session and didn't want to rehash that in the public session.
But "at no point in time did we say, 'No, you cannot'" include civil service employees, Gorfida said.
The city staff estimated the measure would cost $58,000 in overtime costs for three weeks off, based on numbers from 2018 in which 11 employees took time off for the birth of a child.
That's a decrease from a $68,000 estimate associated with the earlier proposal of six weeks off.
Council member Kenzie Moore III voiced strong support for the policy.
Candace Valenzuela, 34, of Dallas, with her baby, Jacinto Baldwin, walks back to her seat after discussing why she's in favor of a paid parental leave program for city employees in DeSoto. (Ben Torres/Special Contributor)
"It may not be all over the country, but it's coming," said Moore, who seconded Quarles' motion. "We can be that city in the forefront. We can be that city that others model themselves after."
Several residents addressed the council about the policy, all in favor. Some brought their babies to the lectern. A city survey sent out to the public revealed that 75% of DeSoto residents who responded were in favor, while 19% were opposed and 6% were unsure.
Quarles, the Texas organizing director of the Working Families Party, was heartened by the response from residents who spoke during the meeting.
"After seeing all of that, I thought, 'There's no way we can vote no now,'" Quarles said.
Mayor Curtistene McCowan said paid family leave had been fully discussed over the last year in council retreats and other forums, and she conceded that previously she had some concerns.
"What about our employees who don't have children?" she said.
But she said she eventually became comfortable with the idea.
"It's almost like we need to take baby steps first," she said. "There's risk in everything we do, and I hope that if this is a great risk, that the rewards will be even greater."
Source: Dallas Morning News