Proposal Would Cut Back Required Family, Medical Leave In Wisconsin

Bill Would Eliminate State Requirements For Employee Leave

The Wisconsin Capitol reflected in an office window
Steve Brown & John Verkleir (CC-BY)

Some part-time workers would lose family and medical leave benefits in Wisconsin under a GOP-backed proposal in the state Legislature.

Under the plan, businesses that have to comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act would no longer have to follow state rules on leave.

If the bill passes, a part-time employee who works between 19 and 24 hours a week would go from having two weeks of paid leave to care for a sick child to none at all.

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Chineva Smith, a single mother of two from Milwaukee who has had to take medical leave to care for her sons, spoke Monday at a Capitol press conference on the proposal. She said the changes would make it even more difficult for her to keep a job.

“Parents should never have to be put into a situation where they have to choose a job over their child’s health or well-being,” Smith said.

The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Wisconsin Public Health Association, and End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin oppose the bill.

Supporters of the measure say it’s expensive and time-consuming for Wisconsin businesses to make sure they’re complying with both state and federal leave laws.

They argue the goal of the bill isn’t to strip people of benefits.

“That is not the goal — that maybe makes it easy for some folks to try to demonize the bill, but that’s not the goal here,” said Chris Reader, director of health and human resources policy at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, which supports the proposal. “The goal is to make compliance easier and to bring consistency to regulations between the state and federal government.”

Reader pointed out the bill preserves state protections for people to take leave to care for a domestic partner, which the federal law does not cover.

The bill also allows for employers to provide federal leave benefits to employees who don’t meet the number of hours required by law.

A number of business groups support the bill in addition to Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, including the National Federation of Independent Business.

The bill has yet to be voted on in an Assembly or Senate committee.