By David Wise
Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Thomas R. Cooper today ruled
Milwaukee’s mandatory paid sick leave ordinance “invalidly enacted and
unconstitutional” due to provisions in it regarding domestic violence,
sexual assault and stalking.
Voters approved the ordinance in November after a petition drive by
Milwaukee 9to5, National Association of Working Women to get it on the
ballot. This prompted a legal challenge from the Metropolitan
Milwaukee Association of Commerce.
“This is a case where a proposed ordinance’s reach exceeds its grasp,”
Cooper wrote in his 38-page decision.
MMAC Governmental Affairs Director Steve Baas hailed the decision.
“We obviously very pleased that the judge agreed with us that this
mandate is unconstitutional,” Baas said. “We think its a big victory
for the city of Milwaukee and its economic competitiveness and a big
victory for all the workers who rely on a competitive economy here in
Milwaukee for their jobs.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also praised the decision.
“My position has always been Milwaukee should not be an
island,”Barrett said in a statement. “That’s why it’s important this
issue be addressed at the Federal level. I support sick leave
legislation at the Federal level.”
A representative from 9to5, which is defending the ordinance along
with the city, said the group plans to appeal.
Cooper ruled that provisions that allow victims of domestic violence,
sexual assault or stalking to use sick time for legal action or
relocation are not logically related to the broader purpose of the
ordinance and were not mentioned in the ballot question.
“These provisions are not details of the main purpose of the
ordinance, but separate matters which must be detailed in the concise
statement voted upon on a different direct legislation ballot,” Cooper
Additionally, Cooper ruled that the ordinance and the literature
supporting it failed to establish a rational basis for the exercise of
police powers regarding the legal action and relocation provisions
with respect to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
Cooper rejected the MMAC’s arguments that the ordinance conflicts with
existing federal and state labor laws, impairs existing labor
contracts, is unconstitutionally vague, and extends the city’s
enforcement power beyond its jurisdiction.