Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Paid Leave Policies Must Work for Everyone, Including LGBTQ Families
Press Release

RELEASE: Paid Leave Policies Must Work for Everyone, Including LGBTQ Families

New report focuses on the importance of inclusive definitions of family in workplace leave policies, especially for LGBTQ families.

Washington, D.C. — Across the country, there is growing momentum to support workers and families by passing or improving upon workplace leave policies. As lawmakers and advocates continue to move forward policies such as paid sick days and paid family and medical leave, a new report by A Better Balance, the Center for American Progress, Family Values @ Work, and Forward Together details how to develop policies that use an inclusive definition of family and provides model policy language that appropriately captures the diverse realities and needs of today’s families.

An inclusive definition of family in paid leave policies would help ensure that all workers have access to paid time off in the event that they need a few days to recover from a short-term illness, or a longer leave to bond with a new child, recover from a serious health condition, or care for a seriously ill loved one. The report identifies gold-standard family definition policies and finds that state and local victories in the last half of 2016 alone will provide nearly 7 million people access to paid sick days with an inclusive family definition.

Paid leave laws with inclusive family definitions provide crucial protections to all workers, and they are especially critical to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, or LGBTQ, individuals who often face health and economic disparities and employment insecurity. LGBTQ people often rely on loved ones not related by blood or law for support and care and may require time away from work to care for their chosen family.

Yet inconsistent and often restrictive family definitions in law and policy frequently fail to meet the needs of today’s families, including but not limited to extended families, families headed by same-sex couples, and families defined outside of blood or legal relationships. When nearly 80 percent of families in the United States depart from the nuclear family model of a married couple and their minor children, it is more urgent than ever for workplace law and policy not to leave any family behind.

“Families come in all shapes and sizes and therefore it’s critical that paid leave policies meet the needs of all families,” said Laura E. Durso, Senior Director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. “This is especially true for LGBTQ workers and their loved ones, who are often left behind by restrictive definitions of family.”

“Although the United States has no national law that guarantees workers paid sick time or paid family leave, a growing number of cities and states have passed paid leave laws during the past 10 years,” said Jared Make, senior staff attorney at A Better Balance. “In just the last six months, Arizona; Los Angeles; Chicago; Cook County, Illinois; and Saint Paul, Minnesota, have passed paid sick time laws with inclusive family definitions, ensuring that workers can care for extended relatives and chosen family. However, workers—including LGBTQ workers—shouldn’t have to rely on living in a certain ZIP code to have access to these protections.”

“We’re proud of our state and local partners who have worked to ensure the most inclusive family definition in their laws,” said Ellen Bravo, executive director at Families Values @ Work. “These policies especially benefit LGBTQ individuals who are also people of color, low-income workers, immigrants, seniors, living with disabilities, or whose families are impacted by incarceration.”

“While this report focuses on LGBTQ families, it’s really about all of our families,” said Kalpana Krishnamurthy, policy director at Forward Together. “We’ve always defined family as those who we love and can count on. That fact is what has made our families strong, even as they have been remade by distance, violence, and struggle. This report shows us that we need policies that honor our deepest bonds, however they may look.”

To better support LGBTQ families, the report recommends that all levels of government:

  • Enact paid leave laws and policies that cover chosen family and extended relatives
  • Pass comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that protect people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Improve data collection and research on chosen families and LGBTQ communities

Read the report: “Making Paid Leave Work for Every Family” by Moira Bowman, Laura E. Durso, Sharita Gruberg, Marcella Kocolatos, Kalpana Krishnamurthy, Jared Make, Ashe McGovern, and Katherine Gallagher Robbins

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact:

Chelsea Kiene, Center for American Progress:

Rachel Sica, A Better Balance:

Kayla Ermanni, Family Values @ Work,

Erin Malone, Forward Together,


The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

A Better Balance is a national legal advocacy organization that leverages the power of the law to ensure that no worker has to make the impossible choice between their job and their family. Through legislative advocacy, litigation, research, public education, and technical assistance to state and local campaigns, A Better Balance is committed to helping workers care for their families without risking their economic security. When all working parents and caregivers have a fair shot in the workplace, our families, our communities, and our nation are healthier and stronger.

Family Values @ Work is a nonpartisan network of coalitions in 24 states working to pass policies that value families at work such as paid sick days and affordable family leave.

Forward Together builds relationships across lines of race, gender, and sexuality to connect marginalized people and catalyze social change. Our work influences culture and policy to ensure that every person, family and community has the power and resources they need to thrive.