The Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act (WFMLA) and federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are highly similar to one another in some respects, but there are notable differences between Wisconsin FMLA and Federal FMLA.
In general, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is more advantageous for employees; thus, if your employer is covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and you meet the requirements of an “eligible” employee, you will not have any need for the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act.
WFMLA Protections & Provisions
The purpose of the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act is to help strike a balance between employees’ workplace, personal, and family lives by providing WFMLA-eligible employees with up to 8 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for particular medical and familial reasons.
WFMLA further makes it unlawful for an employer to:
- Interfere with an eligible employee’s right to WFMLA leave
- Retaliate against an individual for his/her use of WFMLA leave
The Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act applies to all public and private employers that employ 50 or more employees on a permanent basis. It further applies to employees who have been employed by a covered employer for at least 52 consecutive weeks and have worked at least 1,000 hours in the 52 weeks preceding the leave.
Under the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees can take a total of 8 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for any of the following reasons:
- Up to 6 weeks for the birth of a child or for the adoption of a child
- Up to 2 weeks the care of a spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, parent of a domestic partner, son, or daughter with a serious medical condition
- Up to 2 weeks for the employee’s own serious health condition when the condition interferes with the employee’s ability to perform at work
In addition, an employee may take job-protected leave to care for a servicemember with a serious injury or illness.
Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act leave may be taken on an intermittent basis by taking a partial absence from work, rather than an entire day, and in sporadic increments.
Remedies Available Under WFMLA
Under WFMLA, if an individual is successful at hearing and it is found by an Administrative Law Judge that the individual was the victim of WFMLA interference or WFMLA retaliation, that individual is entitled to recover his/her back pay (lost wages) and attorney fees and costs. Reinstatement (getting his/her old job back) is also available.
Compensatory damages (pain and suffering) and punitive damages (monetary punishment levied against the employer for discriminating) may be available in circuit court through the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act cases; however, an individual is not entitled to them.
Statute of Limitations
Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act complaints must be filed with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development – Equal Rights Division within 30 days of the WFMLA violation.
If the employer committing the violation is covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and an individual is eligible under the FMLA, a 2-year statute of limitations applies; therefore making the 30-day statute of limitations not as relevant. However, if the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act is an individual’s only route, and s/he fails to file a WFMLA complaint with the ERD within 30 days, the claim is time-barred and the individual loses his/her WFMLA claim.