Do LGBT parents have equal access to FMLA benefits?

Having or adopting a child is a beautiful, joyous experience for a new parent. When that little one arrives in your home, you want to take off as much time from work as possible to bond with and care for your new family.

This desire is ubiquitous among all parents, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. But LGBT couples may face unique issues when it comes to taking time off from work and being treated equally by employers as a new parent.

While employers may have certain policies about their parental leave policy when it comes to birth parents versus adoptive parents, they cannot refuse to grant an LGBT parent the right to use FMLA benefits for the care of a new child.

FMLA requirements

The Family Medical and Leave Act applies to all public agencies, local education agencies and private-sector employers who employed 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year. It is accessible for employees who have worked for said employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours, and if the employer has 50 or more employees with 75 miles of the employee's job site.

As long as you and your employer meet all of the above requirements, you qualify for FMLA leave. You won't be paid for your time off, but your employer cannot deny your right to take time off to care for your little one.

If you qualify, your employer may try to discourage you from using FMLA leave or manipulate your hours to avoid FMLA responsibilities. They may also count it as a negative factor in performance review, promotions, raises and more. If you have an attendance policy they may try to count your FMLA leave. All of these actions are prohibited by law.

If you believe your employer is attempting any of the above, or outright tells you that you cannot take FMLA leave because you are not a "real parent," you can advocate for yourself by taking legal action. This is one of the happiest times in your life, and you should be able to enjoy that time with your new child without fear of repercussion or a denial of benefits.

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