On Chosen Family Recognition Day, Advocates Urge Passage of CA Bill to Extend Paid Family Leave to Chosen Family

February 22. 2024

For Immediate Release
Feb 22, 2024

Media Contact
Jess Eagle
[email protected]


The bill would benefit LGBTQ+ workers and others with caregiving responsibilities

SACRAMENTO — On Chosen Family Recognition Day (Feb. 22), advocates for LGBTQI+ and workers’ rights are urging the passage of California Assembly Bill 518, introduced in 2023 by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, which would extend the state’s Paid Family Leave program to cover chosen and extended family members.

Advocates say the bill will make state workplace leave policies more inclusive of LGBTQ+, immigrant, and other workers with caregiving responsibilities outside traditional immediate family. The bill is sponsored by Equal Rights Advocates, California Employment Lawyers Association, California Work & Family Coalition, Equality California, and Legal Aid at Work.

California’s Paid Family Leave program allows workers to receive partial income replacement when they need leave from work to care for a seriously ill family member or bond with a new baby. Virtually all California workers pay into the program through automatic paycheck deductions, but not all workers can use the program in times of need, advocates say. This is because currently, Paid Family Leave benefits apply only to caring for a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, parent-in-law, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner.

“It’s time for our laws to reflect the reality of California workers’ lives,” said Jessica Ramey Stender, Policy Director and Deputy Legal Director at Equal Rights Advocates. “Everyone who pays into this program should be able to benefit from it, and that’s not currently the case. AB 518 will ensure our state’s Paid Family Leave program is fair and inclusive.”

Only 18% of U.S. households comprise the traditional nuclear family structure of a married couple with children. The bill would allow workers to take paid family leave to care for a “designated person,” or in other words, someone who is part of their chosen or extended family, including unmarried partners, aunts, uncles, and close friends.

“Paid Family Leave is a vital support for California workers who need leave from work to care for a seriously ill family member, but right now California’s Paid Family Leave program reflects an outdated idea of what family means.” said Katie Duberg, Political Organizing Director at the California Work & Family Coalition. “AB 518 is an important update for our Paid Family Leave program so that Californians can care for their chosen and extended family.”

As of 2023, with passage of AB 1041, Californians can take job-protected but unpaid leave under the California Family Rights Act to care for a seriously ill “designated person” who is a member of their chosen or extended family. AB 518 would build upon this important development by making paid family leave wage replacement benefits available to those with chosen family, thereby ensuring that the program is accessible to those who cannot afford to take unpaid days off work.

“AB 518 will ensure that California’s Paid Family Leave program is more equitable and inclusive” said Mariko Yoshihara, Policy Director for the California Employment Lawyers Association. “All hard-working Californians, regardless of their family structure, deserve a Paid Family Leave program that allows them to be there for their loved ones when it matters most.”

Advocates say the bill will particularly help low-wage workers, including those living in multigenerational households, who more often need to take care of extended family members such as aunts, uncles, or cousins with serious illness or injury. 

“While California has some of the most progressive laws in the country, the state’s Paid Family Leave program continues to reflect a narrow family structure that fails to recognize and support the diversity of LGBTQ+ workers and their families,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “All families deserve to be respected and protected under the law. AB 518 is a critical step toward ensuring LGBTQ+ and all Californians can care for the ones they love no matter what their families look like.”

“For members of the LGBTQ community and immigrants who often rely on chosen or extended family for care, the Paid Family Leave program as currently structured perpetuates inequality,” said Shazzy Kamali, Staff Attorney at Legal Aid at Work. “Workers in California taking time off to care for a seriously ill member qualify for wage replacement only if they are caring for someone who is on a narrowly defined list of family members, excluding marginalized and vulnerable Californians who rely on more broadly defined kinship networks.”



About Equal Rights Advocates: Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) fights for gender justice in workplaces and schools across the country. Since 1974, ERA has been fighting on the front lines of social justice to protect and advance rights and opportunities for women, girls, and people of all gender identities through groundbreaking legal cases and bold legislation that sets the stage for the rest of the nation.

About California Work & Family Coalition: The California Work & Family Coalition is a statewide alliance of community organizations, unions, non-profits, and individuals dedicated to helping parents, caregivers, and families thrive. We are united in the belief that all people should have the time and resources to care for themselves and each other.

About Equality California: Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve.

About California Employment Lawyers Association: The California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA) exists to protect and expand the legal rights and opportunities of all California workers and to strengthen the community of lawyers who represent them.

About Legal Aid at Work: Legal Aid at Work partners with people to help them understand and assert their workplace rights, and we advocate for employment laws and systems that empower low-paid workers and marginalized communities.


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