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Robinson: Family leave works. I know.

Robinson: Family leave works. I know.

by Keisha Robinson

Let’s work to keep Wisconsin’s law one of the strongest in the nation and even expand it

Last week, we celebrated the 29th anniversary of Wisconsin’s Family and Medical Leave Act, which offers unpaid, job-protected leave for a new baby, and two weeks to care for a seriously ill child, parent, partner or in-law, or to recover from an illness.

The act also has special protections beyond the federal law, which ensures people can use the leave intermittently to breastfeed or bond with a new baby, and receive job protection if employed by a company with 50 or more employees anywhere in Wisconsin (as opposed to within a 75-mile radius, as federal law requires) and work 1,000 hours per year (as opposed to 1,250 under federal law) and be on the job for at least a year.

Even with these provisions, thousands of Wisconsinites are unable to take leave when needed because it’s unpaid. I personally know the importance of Wisconsin’s FMLA law. I was a mother with small children and nine months pregnant when I began having complications with my pregnancy. I told my employer about my medical issues and the need for time off earlier than I planned and was shocked when I learned that employer would not allow me to return to my job.

I found myself having to choose between the health of my baby and my paycheck. I ended up unemployed and on state assistance. Had I known about the Family Leave Act, my job would have been protected and my last few weeks of pregnancy would have been significantly less stressful. I am now active in my community helping others learn of their rights so they don’t find themselves in the same situation.

Since 1988, the Wisconsin law has helped a generation of children get a healthy start in life, a generation of seniors age with greater peace of mind and many adults care for themselves without having to sacrifice their jobs or health insurance. Now, nearly 30 years later, Wisconsin once again has the chance to prove our state is a national leader on legislation rooted in real family values.

Let’s work to keep Wisconsin’s law one of the strongest in the nation and expand it so more workers can afford to take the time they need. It’s time — because no one should be forced to choose between being a good parent or being a good worker, as I did.

Keisha Robinson is a member of 9to5 Wisconsin.

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