New Wisconsin Organ and Bone Marrow Donation Leave Law Becomes Effective July 1, 2016

By Ruder Ware Alumni
June 23, 2016

Some may have forgotten that on April 1, 2016, Governor Walker signed a new law providing qualifying employees with the right to take up to 6 weeks of unpaid leave from work in a 12-month period, to serve as bone marrow and organ donors. The new law, 2015 Wisconsin Act 345, becomes effective on July 1, 2016—just over one week away.  So…it makes sense to refresh your collective memories about what the new law entails.  First, as with the Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Act, the new bone marrow and organ donation leave law applies to employers in Wisconsin who employ a minimum of 50 individuals on a “permanent basis,” as defined by administrative regulation.  An employee of a covered employer becomes eligible for leave under the new law when he or she:

  • Has worked for the employer for 52 consecutive weeks; and
  • Has worked at least 1,000 hours in the last 52-week period prior to requesting leave.

Although implementing regulations are not yet available, it’s reasonable to anticipate the new law will be interpreted and applied in a manner similar to the Wisconsin and federal Family Medical Leave laws.  So, for example, it is reasonable to assume that “hours paid,” not simply “hours worked,” will be credited toward the “1,000” hour threshold.  It is also reasonable to assume employers will be permitted to designate a particular method for measuring the 12-month period during which leave may be utilized [i.e., calendar year, rolling year, etc.].  However, as of this post, we simply don’t know have answers to these, and several other questions. 

Leave under the new law is unpaid, but employees are permitted to substitute accrued but unused paid leave.  There are many other familiar feeling aspects of the new law, including employee notice requirements, medical certification option, and certain job restoration protections.

In light of the new law, employers are encouraged to quickly update employee handbooks and post the new notice of rights poster, as soon as the Department of Workforce Development makes it available.

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