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Human Rights Campaign House Hearing - Family Friendly 111th

Human Rights Campaign House Hearing - Family Friendly 111th

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Published by HRC Back Story
Human Rights Campaign Submits Testimony in Support of Lesbian and Gay Family-Friendly Workplace Policies.
Human Rights Campaign Submits Testimony in Support of Lesbian and Gay Family-Friendly Workplace Policies.

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Published by: HRC Back Story on Mar 23, 2009
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09/30/2012

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Written Statement of Joe SolmonesePresidentHuman Rights Campaignto theSubcommittee on Workforce ProtectionsEducation and Labor CommitteeU.S. House of RepresentativesRoom 2175Rayburn House Office BuildingMarch 3, 2009Chairwoman Woolsey and Ranking Member Price:On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest civil rights organizationworking to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality and our over750,000 members and supporters nationwide, I submit this statement in support of family-friendly workplace policies. We encourage the Committee and Congress toensure such legislation covers all families, including those headed by lesbian and gaycouples and people that are functioning in a parental role.Access to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), paid leave, and the ability toenroll family members in employer provided health insurance plans are crucial to thewell-being of families headed by lesbian and gay couples. All families, including thoseheaded by lesbian and gay couples, should have equal access to employer benefits.Workers with same-sex partners and children need health insurance coverage and theability to take paid time off to care for themselves and their families without losing apaycheck and compromising their economic stability.
I. The Family and Medical Leave Act Should be Revised to Include All Families
For millions of workers, the FMLA has been an unmitigated success. It has provenessential in achieving greater employee retention and reducing turnover.
1
However,because lesbian and gay employees are not guaranteed up to twelve weeks of family ormedical leave to care for a partner or partner’s child without fear of losing their job, theFMLA does not fulfill its purpose of protecting working families.
1
Westat,
 Balancing the Needs of Families and Employers: Family and Medical Leave Surveys
Table §6.2.3, Table 6.5 (2001),http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla/fmla/toc.htm.
 
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Some states and private employers have filled the gap in FMLA coverage by offeringfamily medical leave for workers to care for a domestic partner.
2
However, an expansionof the FMLA is needed in order to cover millions more of America’s families.Congress should seek ways to expand the law and to extend coverage to all workers andtheir families, including those led by same-sex couples. Lesbian, gay and bisexualworkers experience the same levels of stress, lack of productivity, distraction and fear of  job loss as do others when their domestic partners become ill, are hospitalized or caredfor by others. The FMLA does not, however, guarantee these employees the same leaveopportunities to care for their loved ones.One option to remedy this glaring inequity would be for Congress to pass the Family andMedical Leave Inclusion Act,
3
introduced in the 110
th
Congress by RepresentativeCarolyn Maloney, (D-NY) and soon to be introduced in the 111
th
Congress. Thelegislation expands the FMLA to permit an employee to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave from work if his or her domestic partner or same-sex spouse has a serioushealth condition. It would also permit employees to take unpaid leave to care for a"parent-in-law, adult child, sibling or grandparent."
II. Paid Sick Leave Legislation Should Include All Families
Legislation that would provide paid sick leave to American workers should cover allAmerican families equally, including those headed by lesbian and gay couples. Paid sick leave legislation such as the Healthy Families Act
4
introduced in the 110
th
Congress byRepresentative DeLauro (D-NY) and soon to be introduced in the 111
th
Congress, wouldprovide great relief for millions of American families. The Act would provide mostworkers with seven paid sick days each year to care for certain close family members orto address serious personal health concerns.Far too few of those working in America have a single day of paid sick leave – and low-wage workers are hit the hardest. Providing paid sick days is essential for workingAmericans and their families to ensure they can take time for regular preventive medicalcheck-ups or to care for a sick family member without risking their job.
2
The following states under their respective state FMLAs extend benefits that include same-sex couples:Massachusetts extend benefits to spouses; Connecticut extends benefits to spouses and parties in a civilunion; California and the District of Columbia extend benefits to registered domestic partners; New Jersey,and Vermont provide benefits to parties in a civil union; Hawaii provides benefits to reciprocalbeneficiaries; and Oregon and Rhode Island provide benefits to family members which includes same-sexdomestic partners; New Mexico provides benefits to same-sex spouses so long as they were married out-of-state in a state that recognizes marriage for same-sex couples.
 
3
H.R. 2792, 110
th
Cong. (2007).
4
H.R. 1542, 110
th
Cong. (2007).
 
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Failure to address this problem puts our public health and economy at risk. Nationally,nearly half of private sector workers have no paid sick leave.
5
When one worker has noalternative but to go to work sick,
all workers
are at increased risk of contagion andlowered productivity.Workers with same-sex partners and children need the ability to take paid time off to carefor themselves and their families without losing a paycheck and compromising theireconomic stability. Due to the inherent inequity in access to federal benefits for same-sex couples and their children, including the benefits provided by the FMLA, using anemployer’s paid leave structure is often the only option when tending to the long-termillness of a partner or other family member. For those families whose employers do notprovide paid leave, there
are
no options beyond missing work, as well as a paycheck, orlosing a job entirely.Many employers have already included families headed by lesbian and gay couples forpurposes of family sick leave. The HRC Foundation tracks employers that providedomestic partner-inclusive health benefits. Since 2006, a majority of Fortune 500companies have offered benefits to same-sex partners of employees. Today, 57 percent— a total of 286 — of the Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits. Theseemployers and state governments realize that not providing health benefits to theseworkers greatly limits their ability to maintain a stable and continuous workforce byhelping employees retain their jobs when a family emergency strikes. We encourageCongress to follow their lead.
III. Paid Leave Should Include Families Headed by Lesbian and Gay Couples
To further ensure families are able to take the time they need while maintaining theirfinancial security, we support legislation that would provide paid leave under the FMLA.Legislation such as the Family Leave Insurance Act,
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introduced in the 110
th
Congress byRepresentative Stark (D-CA) and soon to be introduced in the 111
th
Congress, providesfor paid FMLA leave and explicitly includes families headed by lesbian and gay couples.Such legislation is a necessary and welcome improvement to the FMLA.The Act provides essential benefits to employees seeking to take leave to care for adomestic partner and their children. The Act gives access not only to crucial FMLAleave benefits for families headed by lesbian and gay couples, but also ensures this leavewill be paid. Such leave will allow all working families the opportunity to provide carewhen it is needed most.This benefit will also provide relief to low income workers, considerably improving theirlives, the health of their families, and their ability to spend vital time with new children.
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Vicky Lovell, Ph.D.,
 No Time to be Sick: Why Everyone Suffers When Workers Don’t Have Paid Sick  Leav
e, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, May 2004, citing U.S. Department of Labor statistics from1996, 1997 and 1998.
6
H.R. 5873, 110
th
Cong. (2008).

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