Family Values @ Work

Paid Sick Days: A Guaranteed Minimum Standard (Milwaukee)

September 29, 2008

Milwaukee workers without paid sick days are forced to make impossible choices between vital income and jobs on one hand, and caring for their own health or family health on the other hand. Yet the majority of middle-income workers cannot rely on paid leave, and three-fourths of low-wage workers have no paid sick leave. 

A new Milwaukee ballot initiative would allow workers to earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. This means that full time employees for large businesses will earn 72 hours a year (9 days for those working a 40 hour week); small businesses with fewer than 10 employees will only be required to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave a year (5 days for those working a 40 hour week) 

Will Milwaukee be the first place to pass paid sick days?

NO. San Francisco and Washington, D.C. already require that workers within their limits have paid sick days. Similar initiatives have also been introduced in other cities and states across the nation, and at the federal level (as the Healthy Families Act).

Which employees will be covered?

  • All private employees who work in the City of Milwaukee including part-time and temporary employees
  • A ballot initiative can’t cover public employees, but most of them already have paid sick time off
  • Both full-time and part-time workers are covered but the number of sick days earned depends on the number of hours worked so part-time employees may earn fewer sick days in a year

Which employers would provide paid sick leave?

  • All private employers in the City of Milwaukee
  • Small businesses with 10 or fewer employees will be permitted to provide fewer paid sick days in a year (40 hours) than large employers (72 hours)

What health needs would be covered?

  • Sick days can be taken by an employee for medical treatment, preventive care or diagnosis for the worker or for a worker to care for a close family member who is sick or needs diagnosis or preventive care
  • All safety needs related to those experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault (ex. use accrued time to flee to safety)

What family members can be cared for under the ordinance?

All children (biological, adopted, foster), all parents and grandparents, spouses and domestic partners, siblings and those related by blood or affinity

When can an employee begin to use paid sick leave?

Sick leave begins to accrue as soon as a person is employed, but he or she must work 90 days before sick leave can be used.

Does paid sick leave carry over from one year to the next?

Yes, but employers are not required to allow employees to use more than 72 hours of sick leave per year (or 40 hours per year if they work for small businesses) and employers are not required to pay for unused sick leave when an employee leaves his or her job

Can an employer provide more sick days than required under the ordinance?


If an employer has a policy that allows employees to take the amount of paid time off provided in the ordinance without calling it sick leave (for example, under a paid time off policy), does the employer need to provide any additional leave?

No, as long as the employee can take the time off under all the same terms and conditions as the sick leave ordinance provides. In other words, for all the same purposes and without having to give advance notice.

Can an employer retaliate against or penalize an employee for taking paid sick leave?


Is notice required to employees of the paid sick leave policy?


How will the ordinance be enforced?

The Equal Rights Commission will have the power to take and investigate complaints about employers who violate the ordinance, order employers to comply and make rules to enforce the ordinance

For more information, please contact 

Amy Stear at 414-274-0923,
Sangita Nayak at 414-274-0920,



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