As the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, federal paid family and medical leave has been proposed in President Biden’s American Families Plan. In the White House’s effort to make the policy equitable and accessible, it has committed to honoring all families by utilizing an inclusive family definition. This month, A Better Balance and 41 state and national organizations sent a letter to members of Congress to urge them to ensure that any national paid family and medical leave program being considered uses an inclusive family definition and includes protection against job loss, retaliation, and discrimination.
Families throughout our nation take many forms, and any federal paid family and medical leave proposal being considered must take the reality of American families into account by including broad family recognition that covers all of our closest loved ones, including spouses and domestic partners, children (regardless of age), siblings, and loved ones who are not biologically or legally related. Given its track record of success at the federal and state level, we know that a federal paid leave policy with inclusive family recognition will work well for working individuals, families, employers, and the community at large.
And in addition to recognizing the diversity of families, it is crucial that workers be protected against discrimination, retaliation or job loss for caring for any of their loved ones. Currently, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the only federal statute that protects workers from losing their jobs when they take family care leave, and it only protects workers who take leave to care for their seriously ill spouse, parent, or minor child. Since the FMLA’s narrow family definition does not match the reality of American families, it is critical that any federal paid family and medical leave law that may be passed also contains protection for workers to ensure that they are not discriminated against, retaliated against or suffer lob loss for using their leave. This protection is especially crucial for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) individuals, LGBTQ individuals, and people with disabilities who may be more likely to use paid leave to care for extended family members and other close loved ones. At the critical life moments when workers need paid family and medical leave, workers shouldn’t have to worry about whether they will have a job to return to after their leave.
As Congress contemplates a national paid family and medical leave program, both inclusive family recognition and explicit protection against job loss, retaliation, and discrimination are necessary to ensure that working individuals are truly protected and can fully exercise their right to care for their loved ones. To read the full letter to Congress, click here. Join us in telling Congress that we must not delay in guaranteeing paid leave for all workers and families.