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Momentum Swells for Expanded Definition of Family as Three Largest U.S. Cities Recognize Chosen Family in Paid Sick Days Policies

Statement from A Better Balance, Family Values @ Work, and Center for American Progress

For immediate release: November 6, 2017

Contact: Rachel Sica, [email protected], 212-430-5982 Extension 163

Momentum Swells for Expanded Definition of Family as Three Largest U.S. Cities Recognize Chosen Family in Paid Sick Days Policies

State Actions since mid-2016 have Expanded Legal Right to Sick Days to More than Ten Million People

NEW YORK – Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a proposal today passed by the City Council last month that expands the city’s earned sick time law to provide “safe” time for domestic and sexual violence purposes, as well as recognizes the diversity of families by including chosen family-members under the sick and safe time law. With American families moving away from the stereotypical “nuclear” definition, it’s becoming increasingly important to pass comprehensive policy that takes into account the needs of American families. Chosen families form when two or more individuals form a close, family-like relationship–such as long-term partners, friends who have become like siblings, or a neighbor who cares regularly for an elderly individual. New York City is the latest in a string of state and local actions that have passed sick leave with a chosen family definition. New analysis by A Better Balance, Family Values @ Work and the Center for American Progress reveals that these state and local actions since mid-2016 have expanded legal access to sick time to more than 10 million people in the United States.

“All families need time to care for each other and themselves, and it’s heartening that the three most populous cities in the country are leading the way to make sure all family members–whether blood-related or chosen–have the time they need to care for a loved one,” said Wendy Chun-Hoon, co-director of Family Values @ Work. “Ensuring family definitions include chosen and extended family members means that 10 million more Americans now have access to crucial paid time off – a huge win for our country, and especially the LGBTQ community. I have been honored to be part of a network of coalitions that are on the front lines of the paid sick days fight, winning in eight states and 32 cities with more on the horizon. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I know firsthand how important it is to fight for inclusive laws—so that everyone can be there for loved ones when they need us.”

Fewer than 20 percent of American households consist solely of a “nuclear” family of a married couple and their biological children, with more multigenerational households than ever and non-legal relatives serving as caretakers. In fact, according to new data from the Center for American Progress (CAP), nearly a third of people in the U.S. report taking time off to care for the health-related needs of a chosen family member. While people from all backgrounds report taking time off to care for chosen family, LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities both report especially high rates of taking time off to care for chosen family, meaning they are disproportionately impacted when laws exclude chosen family members.

“We applaud Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Council for providing 3.4 million workers in the city with the right to use earned sick time to care for their chosen family’s health needs,” said Jared Make, Senior Staff Attorney and Director of LGBTQ Rights at A Better Balance. “In addition to recognizing family diversity, the expansion of the New York City Earned Sick Time law will allow workers to use their sick time for broad needs related to domestic violence, sexual abuse, stalking, and human trafficking. The law’s new family definition and ‘safe time’ expansion will work powerfully together, since workers who are trying to flee violence and stay safe often need to turn to their chosen family for support and care.”

“New York City brought us the modern day LGBTQ rights movement and we are grateful that Mayor de Blasio takes us another step forward today by recognizing the right of all workers to take care of loved ones, no matter what their families might look like,” added Laura E. Durso, Ph.D., Vice President, LGBT Research and Communications Project, Center for American Progress. “Having access to inclusive leave policies means more security and better health, especially for marginalized groups like LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.”

The inclusion of extended family is crucial to increasing equality nationwide, which is why groups across the country are lauding such leadership.

For more information about these new findings, please visit Center for American Progress’s website and for more information about the history of inclusive family definitions, please visit



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