Michael Jonas: Families come in all shapes and sizes, paid leave must include them all

In 2019, the reality is that families come in all shapes and sizes. The definition of family in both a conceptual and definitive sense can no longer be limited to a married man and woman or a birth mother and her biological children. In fact, the overwhelming majority of households today do not fit into the ‘traditional nuclear family’ mold.

We need a paid leave program that both recognizes and respects this, and in turn allows for people to care for their family, biologically related or not. By making this change, we will not only provide a more honest reflection of what actual families in America look like, we will make a positive impact on individuals, such as those who identify as LGBTQ.

For many LGBTQ individuals, their family consists of both biological and non biological family. Sometimes all or most of their biological family is inaccessible, non-supportive, or distant (in both senses of the word). And, all or most of their chosen, non biological family is where comfort, shelter, and love persist. An inclusive definition of family has been successfully applied to federal workers for over 50 years now, and should be the standard for a national paid leave program.

Should an employee want to take leave to care for a woman they consider their “Mother,” they would not be afforded the same legal protections. Irrespective of the fact that this woman took the employee in as a child into her heart and home when nobody else would, her non biological label puts her into the ‘not family’ category.

As a small business owner, I want my employees to be able to take leave to care for those they are closest to–whether it’s for their nuclear or chosen. biological or non-biological family. I affirmatively believe that by not changing these outdated ways of defining family we would be defying heart, logic, and facts, and giving into stagnancy; something that America definitely does not need right now.

Michael Jonas is the owner and attorney at Rational Unicorn Legal Services in Oregon.

Check out more Small Business for Paid Leave resources at smallbusinessforpaidleave.org.