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November 12, 2008
Milwaukee Voters Approve Mandatory Paid Sick Leave
Employers in Milwaukee will soon be required to offer paid sick leave to their employees, as the result of a referendum on Election Day (November 4, 2008).

Under the ordinance, private employers in Milwaukee will be required to provide one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 9 days (72 hours) of paid sick leave per calendar year. Employers with fewer than 10 employees would be required to provide up to 5 days (40 hours) of paid sick leave per year. Employees are not entitled to the leave until they have worked for their employer for 90 days.

Milwaukee joins San Francisco and Washington, D.C. as the only U.S. cities to require paid sick time for its workers. Whereas the paid sick leave law in Milwaukee allows up to 9 paid days per year, the San Francisco and Washington, D.C. laws allow up to 7 paid days annually.

Sixty-eight percent of voters approved the referendum, which was put on the ballot after 40,000 residents signed a petition in support of the concept. Advocacy groups such as the National Partnership for Women & Families in Washington and the Milwaukee-based 9to5, National Association of Working Women supported the ordinance.

“Today is an historic day for working families in Milwaukee because, by an overwhelming majority, voters there passed a ballot measure yesterday that will guarantee a minimum standard of paid sick days to every worker in the city,” Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families said in a press release. “Milwaukee’s new law is good for workers as well as businesses, good for families, good for the public health, and good for the city.”

“Milwaukee is now the third city, after San Francisco and the District of Columbia, to guarantee workers paid time away from work to treat an illness or care for a sick child. It surely will not be the last. We expect many more cities and states to adopt similar measures, and Congress to consider federal paid sick days legislation, the Healthy Families Act, next year.”

The ordinance should take effect approximately 100 days after the referendum (100 days after November 4 would be February 12, 2009). However, as reported by The Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, a business group opposed to the ordinance, is planning a legal challenge of the new law, which could possibly delay the enactment of the ordinance. The group claims that the ordinance conflicts with federal and state laws for family and medical leaves, according to the paper. The group also claims that the city of Milwaukee would be overstepping its authority by requiring employers outside of Milwaukee to provide sick leave for employees living in the city.

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