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Updating Wisconsin's Family Medical Leave Law

The Democratic leadership of the Wisconsin State Assembly believes the state's Family Medical Leave law is stuck in the 1950s and needs a 21st Century update to reflect the changing family dynamic. (KatarzynaBailasiewicz/iStockPhoto.com)
The Democratic leadership of the Wisconsin State Assembly believes the state's Family Medical Leave law is stuck in the 1950s and needs a 21st Century update to reflect the changing family dynamic. (KatarzynaBailasiewicz/iStockPhoto.com)
February 10, 2016

MADISON, Wis. - Families in Wisconsin are working harder than ever but our laws simply haven't kept pace with the modern workplace, says state Assembly Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse. She and 35 other Democrats are pushing a bill to modernize the state's Family Medical Leave law.

Shilling says the plan would cover a worker's spouse and children, just as the present law does.

"And we expand that definition to also include grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and any eligible employee who has a family member who is deployed overseas by the military," says Shilling.

Many Republicans are opposed to the plan, saying it's an unnecessary expansion of the law that will make the state less competitive in the job market. Shilling and her colleagues disagree, saying the update would strengthen the middle class and actually make the state more competitive.

Shilling says all businesses, no matter how big or small, benefit from a safe and healthy workplace. She thinks updating and expanding the Family Medical Leave law will be good for all.

"Just looking at the changing dynamics of work and family and trying to have that life-work balance that many of us are looking for, really makes sense," Shilling says. "It isn't a workplace frill, it is really a basic need for many workers."

A public hearing on the bill last week garnered broad support from the general public, but Shilling admits the change faces an uphill battle in the Legislature, with Republican leadership saying the update would hurt businesses. Shilling disagrees.

"We believe reforming some of these outdated workplace policies will really help strengthen Wisconsin and help businesses to be more competitive," says Shilling. "We put a tremendous value on workplace flexibilities and the important role of taking care of your loved ones and your family."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI