At the end of October, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Heath joined dozens of other organizations* to speak out against a new proposal that would eliminate some of the protections and benefits that the Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Act (WI FMLA) provides to employees who are employed by a business that is covered by both the state and federal FMLA’s.
In 1988, Wisconsin became one of the first states to pass a state-level Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Congress followed Wisconsin’s lead and passed a federal FMLA in 1993. Both the state and federal FMLA allow employees who meet certain criteria to take unpaid time off of work if they become ill, have a child, or need to care for a sick family member. This advancement in employment policy has been of great benefit to workers, our communities, and the overall health of our state.
The Wisconsin FMLA and federal FMLA are not identical. In general, the Wisconsin FMLA covers more employees and provides more flexible leave benefits than the federal FMLA. Wisconsin employers who are covered by both the state and federal FMLA must comply with any provisions of the state FMLA law that provide greater family or medical leave rights than the rights established by the federal FMLA and vice versa.
This new bill - SB 490 - is an attempt to “federalize” the Wisconsin FMLA, which would reduce access to family and medical leave and reduce the quality of leave for many Wisconsin workers. If passed, this bill would remove the following protections and benefits that workers who have dual state and federal FMLA eligibility current receive:
Now is not the time to scale back Wisconsinites’ hard-won access to family and medical leave. If anything, Wisconsin should be working to expand job protections to more of its citizens to ensure that they can take time off of work in order to take care of themselves, a sick family member, or a new child. Because this attempt to “federalize” the Wisconsin FMLA would weaken some of the very important protections listed above, Wisconsin state legislators need to oppose Senate Bill 490.
*Organizations that jointly oppose SB 490:
Sara Finger, Executive Director