Please Join Us to Establish the First Ever
White House Office of Bereavement Care
See our petition in Español here: Firme nuestra petición!
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
April X, 2021
Dear Mr. President,
Thank you for your service and leadership to our country.
On behalf of bereaved families throughout America, we request you safeguard American families by including bereavement leave as part of your agenda to expand family leave benefits and protections.
As the nation confronts concurrent mortality tragedies, employment protection for the newly bereaved has never been more important. Bereavement leave is job protection and millions of Americans who have lost a loved one have no legal right to take leave, with narrow exceptions in two states and two localities. Currently, bereavement is not acceptable grounds for taking unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, except for miscarriage or stillbirth losses or when a solider is killed in action. This chasm not only leaves millions of Americans at risk for losing their job, but also can be a precipitating event that can send an individual or family into poverty, homelessness and other dire outcomes that can alter a person’s life trajectory permanently.
Job protections for the newly bereaved may include the following:
- Leave: Ten days of unpaid leave following the death of a family member or loved one.
- Age of a child: Define the age of a child up to age 26 bringing age parity with existing health care and tax law.
- Definition of a family member or loved one: While there is no one standard, proposed or passed state laws define a family member or loved one as: (1) Spouses, domestic partners, and both different-sex and same-sex significant others: or (2) Any other family member within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity: or (3) A member of the covered employee’s household, including a minor’s parents, regardless of the sex or gender of either parent. Most laws liberally define parenthood as legal parents, foster parents, same-sex parent, stepparents, those serving in loco parentis, and other persons operating in caretaker roles.
Make no mistake employment protection is not simply about planning a funeral or grieving. Maintaining family stability and solvency in the short- and long-term can be a challenge, especially when families face housing, food and other insecurities. Further, Jewish and Native American traditions, for example, have cultural and religious requirements or norms that must be carried out within specific timeframes. The threat of losing your job under these conditions is unacceptable.
The unexpected death of a loved one is the most common traumatic experience Americans report; many report their loss as their worst life experience.[i] Today, more than 5 million families have lost a loved one due to COVID-19 in the United States, including an estimated 40,000 newly bereaved children who have lost a parent.[ii] Millions more are bereaved from deaths due to overdoses, suicide, mass murder events and other tragedies that never make our nation’s headlines. The impact of bereavement on American lives is both stunning and underappreciated. Consider the following:[iii]
- Bereaved children are at-risk of school failures, juvenile justice incarceration, drug abuse, violent crime involvement, suicide attempts, suicide, and premature death.
- Bereaved siblings are at-risk of dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, and premature death.
- Bereaved parents are at heightened risk for depressive symptoms, poorer well-being, less purpose in life, more health complications, marital disruption, psychiatric hospitalization, cancer incidence, dementia, and premature death.
- Bereaved spouses at risk of depression, post-traumatic stress, prolonged grief and premature death.
Racial inequalities are magnified across the life course as Black Americans are more likely to experience the death of children, spouses, siblings and parents when compared to white Americans. They are three times as likely as white Americans to have two or more family members die by the time they reach the age of 30.[iv]
Bereavement leave is not an academic exercise. Real families are behind these statistics.
Today, families are left to fend for themselves and without any legal protections. Losing a loved one is more than an emotional hardship, it is an urgent threat to their family wellbeing and economic resiliency. If bereavement leave is not considered now, it will years before Congress will reconsider codifying employment protections into law.
As the nation’s highest office, we ask that you provide job protection to America’s newly bereaved families. No other time in history has this been more urgent.
We look forward to working with you and your administration.
Get the facts:
Today, an estimated two million youth have lost a parent.
According to the Institute of Medicine, the death of a child is one of the greatest and most enduring stresses a person can experience.
Approximately eight million American siblings under the age of 25 have lost a brother or sister.
There are approximately 15 million bereaved spouses in the United States.
Across the life course, Black and Brown Americans are more likely to experience the death of children, spouses, siblings and parents when compared to their White counterparts.