Legislators Reintroduce Family Medical Leave Bill

Sen. Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville) and Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb) are reintroducing a bill that would expand Wisconsin’s Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The legislators circulated for cosponsorship the new FMLA proposal (LRB 0323) on Oct. 22.

The bill would expand the application of the FMLA to small businesses with at least 25 permanent employees. Under current law, FMLA requirements only apply to businesses with over 50 employees.

The bill also extends family leave benefits to individuals caring for a grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or a family member on deployment from covered active duty, in addition to current law requirements that employers provide benefits for individuals caring for a child, spouse, parent, spouse/domestic partner, parent of spouse/domestic partner.

The bill further allows municipalities to enact ordinances requiring employers to provide more paid leave for employees than state law requires.

The bill also creates a family and medical leave insurance program in the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). Under the program, individuals on family or medical leave can receive up to 12 weeks of insurance benefits from a DWD trust fund. Benefits are payable according to a scale based on the individual’s earnings compared to the state annual median wage. Benefits payable cannot exceed $1,000 per week, adjusted to the consumer price index. Contributions to the trust fund would be collected from all employed individuals in the state, similar to how DWD currently collects contributions to the unemployment insurance fund.

The bill was introduced but failed to pass in both the 2015-16 and 2017-18 legislative sessions.