Last September, the Wisconsin legislature updated the definition of "domestic partner" via the budget bill. While the intention of the modification to the definition was to stop allowing domestic partner health coverage for state employees now that the state recognizes same sex marriage, it resulted in some unintended consequences.
The Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act (WFMLA), as you may know, provides coverage more broadly than federal FMLA. This includes extending the use of WFMLA to provide care for a domestic partner or their family members. To qualify as a domestic partner under WFMLA, an individual may be “registered” (meaning on the state registry) or “unregistered” (which means not on the state registry, but can demonstrate they are in a committed relationship with one another, among other things).
To be considered a “registered domestic partnership,” the new law required partners to register with the state by April 1, 2018. Therefore, anyone that is not on the registry today cannot be added going forward.
To create an unregistered domestic partnership, individuals need to meet certain criteria as defined by statute. However, a recent addition added a requirement to submit an affidavit to the Department of Employee Trust Funds attesting to satisfying that criteria prior to September 23, 2017.
Although these changes to the definition of domestic partner were to amend eligibility for state benefits, since WFMLA links its definition of domestic partnership back to these definitions, the changes resulted in a more narrow scope of domestic partners under WFMLA. In the public sector, it is very possible employees have submitted an affidavit to the Department of Employee Trust Funds for benefit purposes. However, in the private sector, unless the individual previously worked fro the state or the other half of the partnership works for the state, it’s unlikely the pair would have filed an affidavit. The result is that the majority of unregistered domestic partners in the private sector lost coverage under WFMLA. In the public sector, existing partners may be protected, but new partnerships certainly will not be protected.
Similarly, since the ability to become registered domestic partners ended on April 1, 2018, those who failed to register or those entering into new domestic partnership relationships will not have the protection under WFMLA.
Moving forward, if you have Wisconsin employees asking for WFMLA for domestic partners or their family members, you need to ask new questions:
If the answers to the above questions are no, then no WFMLA leave is provided.
Rebecca advises employers on leave policies, accommodations, discrimination and early intervention with workers’ compensation claims. While in private practice, she focused on defending workers’ compensation claims and handling Medicare-related issues arising from those claims. Rebecca received her
Rebecca advises employers on leave policies, accommodations, discrimination and early intervention with workers’ compensation claims. While in private practice, she focused on defending workers’ compensation claims and handling Medicare-related issues arising from those claims. Rebecca received her Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a major in human resource management from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and received her law degree from Marquette University Law School.
On May 11, 2014, the governor of Minnesota signed the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA), a bill that will require Minnesota employers to make dramatic changes to their employment policies and practices.
While WESA directly impacts employers who conduct business in Minnesota, the changes follow plans by federal and local governments to expand legal protections for women and other employees. For this reason, employers in other jurisdictions should pay close attention to these national and state law trends.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is more than 20 years old, yet employers have many questions on how the law applies to their workforce. Unfortunately, mistakes in the application can have significant business and legal consequences.
Making FMLA mistakes can be costly, and many employers make mistakes they don’t even know they are making. Let’s take a look at five common leave-of-absence mistakes based on our experience with real clients from our HR Hotline.
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