WPR: WMC seeks rollback of Wisconsin's Family Medical Leave Act

August 27, 2013
Shawn Johnson
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The state's largest business group wants to do away with parts of Wisconsin's Family Medical Leave Act, saying it's redundant to federal law and makes Wisconsin less competitive.

Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson signed Wisconsin's Family Medical Leave Act in 1987, about six years before President Bill Clinton would sign the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The laws are similar, but not identical, and there are several places where the they don't line up.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce says that makes compliance burdensome for employers, especially multi-state companies. WMC says it wants to “federalize” Wisconsin's law to reduce red tape.

Critics say that essentially means taking rights away from Wisconsin families.

“The unpaid time that we do have is something we absolutely can't take away,” says Dana Schultz, head of the group “9to5 Wisconsin.” She says what's important to know is that in every instance where Wisconsin's law is more generous to workers than federal law, the state law stands. For example, state law specifically allows for leave to care for domestic partners or in-laws, while the federal law does not. Workers can also use any accrued paid or unpaid leave. And people don't have to work for as long before they qualify for leave.

Schultz says Wisconsin's law has worked well for 25 years. “It's ludicrous to say, all of a sudden, 'this is a barrier to businesses,'” she says. “It feels like they're just grabbing for more things that they want to take away.”

WMC declined to comment for this story, saying it first needed to see which changes state lawmakers decide they want to pursue.

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