Fewer than 50 percent of LGBT people say they have access in their workplace to benefits under the Family & Medical Leave Act, according to a new report by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
The findings came about as the result of the organization’s 2018 U.S. LGBTQ Paid Leave Survey. The survey, completed by more than 5,400 LGBTQ people from across the nation, found only 45 percent of respondents say their employer extends leave policies — paid or unpaid — that include LGBT people.
Mary Beth Maxwell, the Human Rights Campaign’s senior vice president for programs, research and training, said the report should serve as a wake-up call.
“No one should have to choose between who they are, the people they love and the job they need,” Maxwell said. “As the only developed nation in the world without some form of guaranteed paid leave policy, American workers, including LGBTQ employees, are too often forced to either forgo their income or leave their job entirely to treat an illness, care for a loved one, or grow their family.”
The report comes on the 25th anniversary of the Family & Medical Leave Act, a federal law signed by President Bill Clinton affording employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for family and medical reasons.
The Labor Department first established married same-sex couples have access to benefits under the Family & Medical Leave Act after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 struck down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sought to block those benefits to gay couples in states without marriage equality and succeeded in trial court, but that ruling was overturned by the 2015 Supreme Court decision for marriage equality nationwide.
Among the key findings the Human Rights Campaign pulled from its survey:
- Fewer than half of respondents report that their employer’s policies cover new parents of all genders equally;
- Only 49 percent say that employer policies are equally inclusive of the many ways families can welcome a child, including childbirth, adoption, or foster care;
- One in five respondents report that they would be afraid to request time off to care for a loved one because it might disclose their LGBTQ identity, illustrating the need for explicit federal LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination protections;
- And 48 percent of respondents, reflecting the prevalence of family rejection within the LGBTQ community, indicated that they feel an increased responsibility to care for loved ones whose own families have rejected them because of their LGBTQ identities — a critical caretaking role often excluded from leave policies.President Trump has proposed instituting paid family leave by extending unemployment insurance benefits to working parents whose employers do not offer paid maternity leave. But the plan — a pet cause of Ivanka Trump — faces an uphill battle in the Republican Congress, and critics contend unemployment checks under Trump’s plan are skimpy and won’t provide sufficient compensation.Another finding in the report: 92 percent of LGBT respondents in the survey say the United States should guarantee paid leave to all Americans, and another 92 percent say access to paid leave would positively affect their lives.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association