Does your employer give you vacation leave, sick leave, or paid time off (PTO)? In addition to these policies, which are voluntary for employers in Wisconsin, you may have a legal right to take leave from work for medical, family, and caretaking responsibilities. For example, if you are temporarily unable to work due to serious illness or you need time off to care for a family member who was injured in active military service, you may have a right to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Wisconsin law provides additional leave rights, including the right to time off for illness, military service, jury duty, and more.
This article provides general information on your right to take leave from work in Wisconsin. For more information, see our page on employee leave rights.
In addition to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which applies to employers in Wisconsin and every other state, Wisconsin has its own family and medical leave law.
Under the federal FMLA, employers must allow eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave per year to care for a seriously ill family member (parent, child, or spouse), to recuperate from their own serious health conditions, to bond with a new child, or to handle certain urgent matters relating to a family member’s military service. The FMLA also requires employers to give employees up to 26 weeks off to care for a family member who has suffered or exacerbated a serious illness or injury while serving in the military. (For purposes of this military caregiver leave only, employees may take leave to care for a broader range of family members, including siblings, grandparents, and cousins, if they are next of kin to an injured service member.)
The FMLA applies only to employers with at least 50 employees. To take FMLA leave, employees must have worked for the employer for 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking leave. FMLA leave is unpaid, although you may use accrued paid leave during your time off in some cases. (Find out more at our Taking Family and Medical Leave page.)
Wisconsin also has its own family and medical leave law. It requires employers with at least 50 employees to give eligible employees time off for the following reasons:
The federal Unformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) requires employers to allow eligible employees to take leave, with reinstatement to their jobs, for up to five years of service in the U.S. military. Under USERRA, employees may be fired only for good cause for a period of up to one year after they return from service. Employers may not discriminate against employees based on their military service. (Find out all about USERRA in Taking Military Leave.)
The laws of many states extend similar rights to employees who serve in the state’s military (such as the militia) or are called to state active duty. In Wisconsin, employers must allow employees to take leave for military service or training. This entitlement applies to civilian employees who are called to service in an officially proclaimed emergency, as well as employees who enlist, are inducted, or are ordered to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces for 90 days or more. Employees are also protected if they are called to state active duty in the national guard of any state or are called to active service with the state department of hygiene during a public health emergency. These employees are entitled to reinstatement to their same position or an equivalent one, and they cannot be fired without good cause for one year after their return.
Wisconsin law also gives employees the right to take time off work, without fear of retaliation, for the civic responsibilities of serving on a jury. Employers may not discipline employees or take away their seniority or raises for serving on a jury. Jury duty leave is unpaid. However, under federal law, employers typically cannot deduct an exempt, salaried employee’s pay for time spent serving on a jury, unless the employee did no work for the entire week. (For more information, see our article on pay docking.)
Wisconsin also requires employers to give employees time off to cast their ballots in an election. Employers must give employees up to three hours off, without pay, to vote. Employees must request this leave before election day.