National Chosen Family Day

Family Values @ Work
3 min readFeb 22, 2024

February 22 is National Chosen Family Day, and we have lots to celebrate. Our Network has won over 20 paid family and medical leave laws and paid sick and safe day laws that guarantee workers can use their paid leave to take care of their chosen family members. While each of these laws vary in their exact definition of family, now eight out of the 14 paid family and medical leave programs cover some amount of chosen family members! This means that workers who are eligible for these programs can use their paid family and medical leave to take care of their chosen and extended family members. This is huge progress from even six years ago, when often the covered family members for these programs were only parent, child, spouse, domestic partner, grandparents and grandchildren. Inclusive family definitions for family caregiving within paid leave policies are important for so many different communities, including disabled folks, LGBTQIA folks, BIPOC communities, immigrant communities, and families impacted by incarceration. We know by now that the ‘nuclear family’ is too narrow of a model for what our families really look like.

New Jersey was the first PFML program to cover chosen family members when they amended their already-existing program in 2019. The next few wins were brand new programs that passed with inclusive family definitions in the initial policy: Connecticut and Oregon in 2019 through the legislative process and Colorado at the ballot in 2020. Then already-existing Washington state and California amended their programs to add additional chosen family members. Finally, in 2023, both Minnesota and Maine’s initial PFML legislative wins cover caregiving for chosen family members. Important to note: New Jersey, Connecticut, Colorado, Minnesota, and Maine’s PFMLs also cover chosen family caregiving if a loved one is experiencing domestic violence or sexual violence and they need a loved one to help — this is called “safe time.” While Oregon has safe time in their PFML, it is just for the workers to take for themselves and for their dependent children, not if additional loved ones need the family caregiving for safe time purposes.

This momentum for inclusive family definitions within paid family and medical leave was built on the inclusive wins for paid sick and safe day laws. While San Francisco — the first city in the country to pass a paid sick day law in 2007 — covered a “designated other” in their initial definition of family, it wasn’t until 2016, when Los Angeles passed their paid sick and safe day law, that we saw the first full-coverage of any and all chosen family members in a local or statewide law. Chicago, Cook County in Illinois, and the Arizona paid sick and safe day laws came next in covering chosen family caregiving in 2016. Since then, we have seen many more paid sick and safe day laws covering chosen family, including in the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and in the most recent statewide paid sick and safe days win with Minnesota in 2023! Lots to celebrate and more inclusive family definition wins to come!

By Preston Van Vliet

(He/Him/His)

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Family Values @ Work

27 state coalitions working to win for Paid Sick Days, Paid Leave and other policies that value families at work in your city, county and state, then nation.