WASHINGTON, D.C. — Legislation that would establish the nation’s first-ever federal insurance program for paid family and medical leave was reintroduced in Congress this week by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The LGBTQ-inclusive FAMILY Act would ensure employees have access to 12 weeks of partial income if they take time off for their health, a health problem of a child, parent, spouse or domestic partner, the birth or adoption of a child, or military caregiving and leave purposes.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, is calling on Congress to advance the legislation.
“American workers are too often forced to choose between their jobs and the well-being of their families, because taking paid leave is simply not an option,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “The FAMILY Act would establish a national program providing peace of mind to all families — including LGBTQ families — and bring family and medical leave policies into the 21st century. We are thankful for Rep. DeLauro and Sen. Gillibrand’s leadership on this issue, and we urge Congress to advance this critically important legislation.”
In 2018, the HRC Foundation released a report detailing the results of a groundbreaking nationwide survey of LGBTQ people that revealed an urgent need for inclusive, employer-paid family and medical leave. Only 45 percent of respondents reported that their employers offer leave policies — paid or unpaid — that are inclusive of LGBTQ families and identities. And, when compared to the overall U.S. population surveyed in a recent Pew Research poll, LGBTQ respondents reported heightened concerns about accessing leave, citing potential loss of income and adverse workplace outcomes from having to disclose their LGBTQ identities through leave requests.
Currently, only 13 percent of the workforce receives paid family leave from their employer, and less than 40 percent have personal medical leave from a disability program provided through their workplace.
WATCH: HRC Video — It’s Time for Paid Leave for All Families
In addition, LGBTQ families face higher rates of poverty than the overall public, and inclusive paid leave would help ensure these families will not have to risk their economic livelihood when needing to take time off to care for loved ones. In fact, families that are headed by same-sex couples earn on average $15,000 less than a family headed by different-sex couples. Children who are raised by same-sex couples, compared to those who are raised by different-sex couples, are twice as likely to be in poverty.
For the estimated 1.8 million LGBTQ people of color in the American workforce, racial bias and discrimination can further limit access to paid parental, family care and medical leave. Without paid leave, the HRC Foundation survey found 67 percent of respondents of color fear that someday they will have to choose between their loved ones and their jobs. This includes 71 percent of Latinx respondents, the highest of any ethnoracial identity group.
No matter the size of the business, workers would still be protected by the FAMILY Act. In addition, the protections are expansive to make sure younger, part-time, lower wage, and contingent workers would qualify for benefits. Funding for the new benefit would come from employer and employee contributions, estimated for the average worker at around $1.50 per week.