Today's post is from Jared Make, Staff Attorney at A Better Balance, an organization that promotes equality and expands choices for men and women at all income levels so they may care for their families without sacrificing their economic security. You can contact Jared at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When illness strikes, many American workers learn that their employers provide little or no paid leave. LGBT workers often face an additional obstacle when loved ones are sick, because their employers may not recognize their families. The widespread lack of LGBT-inclusive paid leave has significant consequences for workers, their loved ones, and the health of our communities. Although it may not be apparent at first glance, paid leave laws are especially critical to the health and economic security of LGBT elders—whether or not they’re in the labor force.
A significant percentage of American workers, including a growing number of LGBT elders, receive no paid leave for personal or family health issues. Almost 90% of private sector workers receive no paid family leave to care for a seriously ill loved one, and nearly 40% of private sector workers lack even a single paid sick day. Many of these workers are LGBT older adults. The population of LGBT elders in the United States is growing at a substantial rate, and LGBT Americans are staying in the labor force for longer periods of time. In a 2009 survey of LGBT Americans between the ages of 45 and 64, almost half of all respondents said they did not expect to retire until after the age of 70.
If LGBT elders in the labor force cannot take time off to receive medical care or recover from illness, their health and well-being are jeopardized. As highlighted by SAGE, LGBT elders face striking health disparities: LGBT older adults have an increased risk for certain cancers, a greater likelihood of delaying medical care, and higher rates of chronic mental and physical health conditions, including HIV/AIDS. Given these health disparities, it is crucial that LGBT elders are able to take off from work to receive medical attention or care for a sick loved one.