Manufacturing Odds & Ends

MMAC files legal document against sick leave mandate
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) has filed a notice of claim to the City of Milwaukee, notifying the city that the organization is considering its legal actions to stop a new sick leave mandate on employers.

Last week, Milwaukee voters overwhelmingly approved a binding referendum to require all employers in the city to provide a minimum number of paid sick days to their employees.

The filing by the MMAC is the first step toward a lawsuit to challenge the new ordinance, according to Steve Baas, Steve Baas, the MMAC’s government affairs director.

"There are a number of serious questions raised by a number of people, including the city attorney, about the legality of this ordinance," Baas said. "It is the MMAC’s intent to aggressively pursue them, and today’s filing gets that process started."

The referendum was approved by 68 percent of the voters, while just 32 percent opposed it.

The referendum was placed on the ballot through the process of direct legislation that required a minimum of 25,600 voter signatures in support of the proposal. Milwaukee 9to5, a grassroots organization, turned in an estimated 42,000 signatures.

With the ordinance, companies in Milwaukee will be required to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours an employee works. Employees’ accrued sick leave would be capped at 72 hours for workers at large companies and at 40 hours for workers at small businesses.

Under state law, the Milwaukee Common Council cannot amend or repeal the ordinance, and employers in the city will have 90 days to comply with the law.

In its notice of claim to the city, the MMAC contends the ordinance exceeds the legislative authority conferred to the city by the state.

As a case study for its argument, the MMAC notes that in 2005, the state amended its minimum wage law to prohibit a municipality from creating a local mandated "living wage" that supersedes the state minimum wage. Similarly, the MMAC notes that the sick leave mandate would supersede the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act.

"Moreover, the ordinance exceeds the legislative authority of the city because it improperly attempts to regulate employers located outside the geographic boundaries of the city," the MMAC’s notice states.

"If the ordinance is not repealed before compliance is required, MMAC’s members will suffer financial injury. This injury will be irreparable because the city will not be liable to MMAC’s members for these amounts and MMAC’s members will not be entitled to recoup these amounts from their employees who have benefited from the ordinance," the notice states. "Such an irreparable injury will force MMAC’s members to seriously consider moving jobs outside the geographic boundaries of the city."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is opposed to the ordinance.

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