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Advancing the rights of working families.

Report on LGBT Workers with Health and Caregiving Needs


When Americans need time off work to recover from illness, bond with a new child, or care for a seriously ill family member, they often discover that their jobs provide little or no support.  These important life moments can be especially difficult for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers to navigate.  LGBT workers who need time off for personal health or family caregiving reasons often find themselves lost in a maze of legal questions:

Am I entitled to any leave from work, and if so, is it job-protected and/or paid?

Do any federal, state, or local laws provide protection or guarantee paid leave?

Are my family relationships recognized under the law or my employer’s personnel policies?

Can I be fired from my job for disclosing that I am in a same-sex relationship or have an LGBT family?

In April 2013, A Better Balance issued a comprehensive report, Time for a Change: The Case for LGBT-Inclusive Workplace Leave Laws & Nondiscrimination Protections, to address these critical questions.  Given significant developments in the law regarding LGBT Americans, as well as passage of several new state and local workplace leave laws, A Better Balance released an updated version of the report in November 2013.  Using examples and stories, this report discusses the laws that apply to LGBT workers who need leave for personal health or family caregiving reasons, as well as LGBT-specific gaps in the law.

To make the case that LGBT workers have a heightened need for inclusive workplace leave laws and nondiscrimination protections, Time for a Change examines the demographics of LGBT Americans, including the prevalence of family caregiving responsibilities, poverty rates, health disparities, and the unique need for workplace leave laws among LGBT older adults and people living with HIV/AIDS.  The report also details how workplace leave legislation can expand legal definitions of “family” and serve as a building block for LGBT rights.

In recent years, LGBT rights in the United States have advanced at a significant pace.  “Don’t ask, don’t tell” has been repealed, an increasing number of states are passing marriage equality laws, and the Supreme Court ruled against the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June 2013.  Against this backdrop of positive change, however, LGBT workers still face many challenges in the workplace and are often forced to make impossible choices among their jobs, financial security, health, and families.  Time for a Change concludes with eight policy and legal recommendations to better support the health and family needs of LGBT workers.

pdf Click here to download the full report. Due to file size, download may take a few minutes.      
pdf Click here to download the executive summary.


We are grateful for the generosity and encouragement of the Ford Foundation, which made this report possible.

To access additional resources and documents on paid leave, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities, click here.

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