Gov. Tony Evers’s proposed 2019-21 state budget would make significant changes to Wisconsin’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) laws. Read about specific changes to UI and FMLA employment law proposed by Evers below.
Evers seeks to expand eligibility for UI with provisions including:
- Repealing the requirement that the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) establish a drug testing program for eligibility for employment benefits.
- Increasing the maximum weekly benefit rate from $370 to $406.
- Repealing provisions that make employees terminated for “substantial fault” ineligible for UI.
- Expanding the amount of absences terminated employees may have before their absenteeism becomes “excessive,” making them ineligible for UI.
- Repealing certain requirements for UI beneficiaries to accept offers for “suitable work.” Instead, requires DWD to promulgate rules regarding suitable work and other work search requirements.
- Eliminating the one week waiting period before eligible claimants may begin receiving UI benefits.
- Allowing employees who quit their jobs because their spouse is required to relocate to be eligible for UI.
- Implementing indexing for the weekly wage threshold for receipt of benefits.
Evers seeks to significantly expand FMLA in Wisconsin. Proposed changes include:
- Requiring employers with at least 25 permanent employees to provide certain family and medical leave benefits. Current law requires employers with at least 50 permanent employees to provide family and medical leave benefits.
- Expanding the eligible persons for whom an employee may take family leave (i.e., broadens the definition of “child” by eliminating requirements that the child be less than 18 years old or unable to care for himself or herself. Additionally, adds grandchildren, grandparents, and siblings).
- Requiring employers to allow family leave because of an unforeseen school or child care closure, such as weather-related closures.
Wisconsin passed its FMLA law in 1988 under former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Five years later, President Bill Clinton signed a federal version of the law with significant differences from Wisconsin law. Wisconsin has never updated its law to conform with federal provisions, posing significant administrative issues for human resources professionals and added unnecessary costs for compliance. A bill which failed to pass last session sought to federalize Wisconsin law. However, Evers’s proposal goes far beyond current federal law and would be more burdensome on Wisconsin employers.
Local Government Employment Law
The budget proposal also eliminates state law prohibiting local governments from enacting ordinances related to employment law, including UI and FMLA. The legislature enacted the prohibition in the 2017-18 session to promote uniformity in employment law throughout the state. Wisconsin statutes already prohibit employment discrimination and set minimum standards for employee benefits. Patchwork ordinances throughout Wisconsin’s municipalities would be unnecessary and burdensome for Wisconsin employers.