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Wisconsin Dems Propose Update to Family Medical Leave Law

The Wisconsin Legislature is considering a bill that Democrats say would move the state's pioneering Family and Medical Leave Law from the 1950s into the 21st century. (Wisconsin State Legislature)
The Wisconsin Legislature is considering a bill that Democrats say would move the state's pioneering Family and Medical Leave Law from the 1950s into the 21st century. (Wisconsin State Legislature)
November 1, 2017

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin was one of the first states in the nation to adopt a Family and Medical Leave Act, and a state senator says it's time for an update.

Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, introduced legislation to allow employees to put part of their paycheck into a trust fund, so they could get a percentage of their pay when they take family or medical leave. Ringhand said the proposal also would broaden the definition of "family."

"Expanding our Family Medical Leave Law to allow employees to take time off to care for not only themselves, a spouse, child, parent, domestic partner, in-law - but also grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings - makes sense," she said, "and reflects the makeup of modern-day families."

Supporters of the bill have said the law needs to move past 1950s-era family structures and give employers and their workers greater flexibility. It might get pushback from those who think the current system doesn't need to be changed.

Ringhand suggested that the bill would create a healthier workforce, since it allows people to take up to 12 weeks off if they become seriously ill or need to care for a family member without losing their job. Creating the fund would save businesses money and provide more economic security for employees, she said.

"Not enough workers have access to paid Family and Medical Leave through their employers," Ringhand said. "Senate Bill 215 creates a new benefit for workers in every part of Wisconsin by enabling them to care for their families and keep their jobs in case of medical emergencies."

Only 11 percent of U.S. employees now have paid family leave, which in some cases forces them to choose between family obligations and the income they need. Ringhand called this legislation a common-sense solution. Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Mount Horeb, is a cosponsor in the State Assembly.

The bill's text is online at docs.legis.wisconsin.gov.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI