Fate of Milwaukee paid sick days ordinance to be decided in WI Supreme Court

Milwaukee’s paid sick days law is receiving national attention as the justices on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court prepare to take the case.

The ordinance, passed in November 2008 by a 69% majority, would allow workers to earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. This means up to 5 days for full time workers in small businesses (>10 people) and up to 9 days for workers employed in larger companies.

The challenge to the bill was brought by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). And what specifically is the MMAC challenging?

Instead of going after the content of the bill (which was supported by 2/3 of voters), they are arguing a procedural issue. More specifically, their challenge questions whether the ordinance was specific enough to comply with the statutory requirement that it contain “a concise statement of [the ordinance’s] nature.” Their argument is that the law is overly broad because it includes this clause:

“Absence necessary due to domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking”

Right. So why is this? Does the MMAC have a compelling interest in ensuring WIS. STAT. 9.20(6) is enforced correctly? Or perhaps they feel it is inappropriate for workers (mostly women) suffering from domestic violence and sexual assault to take time away from work without penalty. Probably neither.


So why doesn’t the MMAC just go after the content of the ordinance instead of using procedural tricks to skirt the real issue? Because it is the only way they could get it to court. Keep in mind, the voters of the Milwaukee were asked:

“Shall the City of Milwaukee adopt Common Council File 080420, being a substitute ordinance requiring employers within the city to provide paid sick leave to employees?” YES or NO

Their response was an overwhelming ‘yes’.


In the free market of ideas, the citizen initiative represents the will of the people and the MMAC shouldn’t stand in its way.

The Supreme Court has yet to set a date to hear the bill. Stay tuned for updates.

Full text of the ordinance

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