Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Why our Bisexual+ community needs family-friendly workplace policies

From: Preston Van Vliet, National Campaign Organizer at the LGBTQ Work-Family Project with A Better Balance and Family Values @ Work

Preston Van Vliet
My name is Preston Van Vliet and I staff a joint project between Family Values @ Work and A Better Balance, focusing on LGBTQ inclusion, general cross-movement work within paid sick/safe days and paid family medical leave. My policy niche, so to say, is making sure "family" is defined as inclusively as possible in these bills so that workers can use their paid leave to take care of their chosen family and extended family. We have now passed 5 paid sick & safe day laws (3-9 days a year of paid time off work for medical/health/caregiving purposes) that have this most inclusive family definition! Which is awesome! No paid family/medical leave law (6-12 weeks of paid time off work for bonding with a new child/serious health condition/caregiving) with this family definition yet, but we have several campaigns that are introducing bills with this language this year.

Many of the paid sick/safe day laws that have been passed guarantee workers the ability to use their paid time to navigate domestic violence/sexual assault (that's the "safe days" term is used to convey). There is a range legally of what is covered in each law, but usually most cover: going to DV/SA services, going to a shelter, going to get a PPO, seeking counseling. Some laws cover much more!

I have been working with our campaign partners through the Family Values @ Work network to elevate the "safe days" use of paid sick/safe days, and I would love to bring in more LGBTQ x DV/SA perspectives as part of these state and local campaigns. I'm reaching out today to specifically invite bi folks to the campaign, given our disastrously high rates of DV/IPV. These safe days will be an incredible resource for bi communities across the country.

So we need your involvement in this work! If you are interested in learning more about "safe days," to be connected to a local/state campaign, or to share your story about the need for "safe days" for yourself or if you have provided care/support for a loved one going through that, please email me at LGBTQorganizing@gmail.com. I'd be happy to schedule a phone call/video conference call with anyone who wants to learn more.

Here are the active PSSD campaigns within Family Values @ Work's network:
Los Angeles, CA (know your rights community education on 2016 law that already passed)
IL (statewide legislative fight and local Chicago & Cook County know-your-rights on 2016 laws)
MI (building towards 2018 ballot initiative, will start collecting petition signatures soon)
MN (statewide legislative fight)
NM (local Albuquerque ballot for this fall)
PA (protecting Philly law from statewide rollback of it, and local Philly know-your-rights on 2015 law)
RI (statewide legislative fight)
WI (local work around government workers benefits)

Best Practices for Family Definition and Safe Day Provisions
As paid sick and safe day (PSSD) laws have gained momentum over the past ten years, there have now been 39 laws passed across the country, with 22 of them including “safe day” provisions. For LGBTQ workers and their families, PSSD are vital supports that help families remain stable during life’s planned and unplanned challenges. Two pertinent policy components of a strong PSSD program that support LGBTQ workers are inclusive definitions of “family” and inclusive safe day provisions.  

Ensuring that workers can use their PSSD to take care of family members who are sick and who are navigating domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking ("safe days"), and that how "family" is defined is inclusive. The Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA) definition of "parent" and "child" follow our most inclusive principles. "In loco parentis" covers a wide range of parental relationships and is what we encourage our coalition partners to use when drafting their bills. However FMLA falls short in other relationships. How "spouse," "domestic partner," and "family members" are defined is important to cover as many family configurations as possible.

  • Spouse: Define “spouse” as a person to whom the employee is legally married under the laws of any state.

  • Domestic partner:                                    
    • Domestic partner means an adult in a committed relationship with another adult, including both same-sex and different-sex relationships.”           
    • Committed relationship means one in which the employee, and the domestic partner of the employee, share responsibility for a significant measure of each other's common welfare. This includes, but is not limited to, any relationship between individuals of the same or different sex that is granted legal recognition by a State, Political Subdivision, or by the District of Columbia as a marriage or analogous relationship (including, but not limited to, a civil union).”

  • Family members: In addition to listing specific family members, include: “Any individual related by blood whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” Five PSSD laws now include family definitions that utilize this principle, including: Los Angeles, Chicago, Cook County (IL), Saint Paul (MN), and the state of Arizona (as passed in a 2016 ballot measure). The federal government uses a version of this language (“related by blood or affinity”) in its own regulations on federal workers’ right to annual and sick leave. 5 C.F.R § 630.201(b)(7).

Ensuring that paid sick days can be used for "safe days" (navigating DV/SA related events & services), and that those safe time provisions are inclusive of the different ways survivors are navigating violence. While legally there are sometimes challenges in redefining DV/SA statutes in laws that we’re working to pass, as an organization, your HR policies can of course be more inclusive. Especially since we know that mainstream DV/SA services and the criminal justice system are not accessible, safe, or wanted options for marginalized communities, I recommend taking a look at DC’s safe days provision within their PSSD law, as copied here:

"Absence resulting from employee or employee's family member being a victim of stalking, domestic violence, or sexual abuse and the absence is for the purposes of:

a. Seeking medical attention to treat or recover from physical or psychological injury or disability caused by the stalking, domestic violence, or sexual abuse;
b. Obtaining services from a victim services organization;
c. Obtaining psychological or other counseling services;
d. Temporary or permanent relocation;
e. Taking legal action; or
f. Taking other action that could reasonably be determined to enhance physical, psychological, or economic health or safety of employee, employee's family member of the safety of those who work or associate with employee. "

Chosen families provide care too and need paid sick time

A Better Balance and Family Values at Work

Why is it important we have these protections?

  1. Survivors of sexual assault lean on friends & chosen fam for help, so #paidsickdays need to include them because #OurFamiliesCount

  1. Many bisexual individuals are sexual assault survivors & need #paidsickdays. See our report on #paidleave for more http://bit.ly/2pRTI6X

  1. #LGBTQ sexual assault survivors & those that help them need #paidsickdays. #OurFamiliesCount because support saves survivors’ lives

  1. #LGBTQ sexual assault survivors & those that help them need #paidsickdays.

  1. 61% of trans ppl w/disabilities are sexual assault survivors. Chosen family who helps them need #paidsickdays

  1. 65% of trans ppl who were homeless are sexual assault survivors. Their caregivers need #paidsickdays to help 

  1. 72% of trans ppl who did sex work are sexual assault survivors. Their caregivers need #paidsickdays to help http://bit.ly/2pRTI6X

  1. According to US Trans Survey, ½ experienced sexual assault. We need #paidsickdays so trans survivors can get services w/o being fired

  1. #OurFamiliesCount no matter what shape they take. We care for close friends, extended family, neighbors, so #paidleave needs to cover us.

  1. #OurFamiliesCount & we need #paidleave. #Trans people of color experience high rates of violence & they need chosen family to help recover.

  1. #LGBTQ domestic violence survivors & chosen fam that helps them need #paidsickdays. #OurFamiliesCount because support saves survivors’ lives

  1. Black #trans survivors of intimate partner violence are more likely to be injured by partner, so they need #paidsickdays for recovery

  1. #LGBTQ immigrants build chosen families. They need #paidsickdays that cover them #OurFamiliesCount http://huff.to/1FT5Msn
  2. #LGBTQ workers need #paidsickdays & nondiscrimination protection to care for ill same gender partner w/o being fired #OurFamiliesCount

  1. #Trans workers need #paidsickdays & nondiscrimination protection to access gender-affirming health care w/o being fired

  1. #Trans ppl travel further for transition health care than for routine care, so need #paidsickdays to help keep job http://bit.ly/1VdoXX1

  1. #LGBTQ workers need #paidsickdays & #paidleave to access family planning services because #OurFamiliesCount

  1. 1 in 5 #trans people are parents so need #paidsickdays for caregiving & #paidleave for child bonding #OurFamiliesCount http://www.ustranssurvey.org/report

  1. We need #paidsickdays to help prevent the flu being spread to people living w/HIV who are vulnerable to getting very sick  #OurFamiliesCount

  1. Chosen fam has important history in taking care of gay & bi men dying of AIDS. #OurFamiliesCount & we need #paidsickdays that cover us.

  1. Chosen fam has important history in taking care of #trans women dying of AIDS. #OurFamiliesCount & we need #paidsickdays that cover us

  1. Elders in the #trans community take care of younger trans people. #OurFamiliesCount & we need #paidsickdays to help care for each other
  1. #LGBTQ workers need #paidsickdays to access routine health care, especially as lesbian & bisexual women have higher rates of ovarian cancer

  1. #LGBTQ workers need #paidsickdays to access routine health care, especially as lesbian & bisexual women have higher rates of breast cancer

  1. Ppl living w/#HIV need #paidsickdays to access routine health care. Getting tested regularly for STIs & #Hepatitis C is crucial for health

  1. #LGBTQ workers need #paidsickdays to access sexual health care, such as annual exams, STI testing, and accessing #PrEP.