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Wisconsin Bans Mandatory Paid Sick Leave

out sick.jpgWisconsin continues to make headlines with employee rights issues. The Wisconsin Assembly recently passed a bill that has put an end to any hope Milwaukee workers had of receiving mandatory paid sick leave. At issue is a hotly debated and heavily litigated Milwaukee ordinance mandating that employers provide paid sick days to employees. The sick leave ordinance was approved by voters after it was placed on the ballot for the November 4, 2008 election.

This electoral victory for Milwaukee workers was short-lived. Soon after the voters approved the ordinance, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce ("MMAC"), filed an action in Milwaukee County Circuit Court claiming the ordinance was invalid on statutory and constitutional grounds, and requesting injunctive relief to prevent the ordinance from taking effect. 9to5, the National Association of Working Women, intervened in support of the ordinance. However, the circuit court granted summary judgment and injunctive relief in favor of MMAC, which stopped the ordinance.

Since that time, the case has been juggled between the Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Finally, on March 24, 2011 the Court of Appeals filed its decision. The Court of Appeals overturned the circuit court and remanded the case with instructions for the circuit court to find summary judgment in favor of 9to5 and to vacate the permanent injunction. However, this was yet another short-lived victory for Milwaukee workers.

Already underway in Madison at the time of the decision, was a Senate Bill to ban the sick leave ordinance. On March 3, 2011, the Wisconsin Senate approved Senate Bill 23. The bill prohibits local governments from mandating paid sick leave benefits. On April 13, 2011, the Wisconsin Assembly voted to approve the bill. The bill was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker on May 5, 2011, which voided the Milwaukee ordinance altogether. Today, the debate continues as to whether the Senate Bill is an attack on local control or will help create more private sector jobs.

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