Drumming up support for paid medical leave in Wisconsin

Wisconsin lawmakers have before them a proposal to enable workers to take time away from their jobs for illness or emergency. The Wisconsin Family Leave Insurance bill would make it possible for employees to receive pay for up to 12 weeks for medical reasons or family emergencies.

“Right now, working families have to take unpaid time if they’re having a baby or taking care of themselves or an aging parent,” a proponent of the bill said. Workers are forced to use vacation time and sick time in order to be able to take care of both the medical situation and their everyday household bills.

Proposal supporters say the family leave insurance would be paid for by workers themselves, rather than by employers or general tax revenues. Each employee would have an average $2 to $3 subtracted from their weekly pay by the state.

The state would then maintain the fund and issue checks to employees who need the paid leave, said an organizer with Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

The proposal has a catch, though: if you take no leave, the state will not reimburse money paid into the fund. In that sense, the plan resembles typical car insurance, for example. If you don’t have an accident and need repairs to your vehicle, you don’t get your insurance premiums returned.

This summer, supporters are trying to drum up support for the proposal. It will be resubmitted to lawmakers early next year for consideration.

Currently, most employees are covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which enables workers to take unpaid time off. Those workers who are denied FMLA benefits or face retaliation for using FMLA can speak with a Milwaukee employment law attorney experienced in protecting rights and benefits.

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