Wisconsin Leave Laws


Vacation Leave

In Wisconsin, employers are not required to provide employees with vacation benefits, either paid or unpaid. If an employer chooses to provide such benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract. WI Statute 109.01(3).

An employer may also lawfully establish a policy or enter into a contract disqualifying employees from payment of accrued vacation upon separation from employment if they fail to comply with specific requirements, such as giving two weeks notice or being employed as of a specific date of the year. See Tasker v. Chieftain Wildrice Co., 662 N.W.2d 678 (Wis. Ct. App. 2003).

An employer is required to pay accrued vacation to an employee upon separation from employment if its policy or contract requires it.

Neither Wisconsin’s legislature nor its courts have given any significant guidance regarding whether an employer may implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy requiring employees to use their leave by a set date or lose it. However, based on the contractual emphasis Wisconsin authorities place on vacation policies, such forfeiture provision are likely lawful, so long as an employee was given sufficient opportunity to use their vacation leave while employed. See Tasker v. Chieftain Wildrice Co., 662 N.W.2d 678 (Wis. Ct. App. 2003).

Neither Wisconsin’s legislature nor its courts have given any significant guidance regarding whether an employer may establish a policy or enter into a contract denying employees payment for accrued vacation leave upon separation from employment regardless of the reason. However, based on the contractual emphasis Wisconsin authorities place on vacation policies, such forfeiture provision are likely lawful, so long as an employee was given sufficient opportunity to use their vacation leave while employed. See Tasker v. Chieftain Wildrice Co., 662 N.W.2d 678 (Wis. Ct. App. 2003).

Wisconsin authorities are also silent regarding whether an employer may deny payment for accrued vacation to an employee upon separation from employment if its policy or contract is silent on the matter. Due to such benefits qualifying as wages under Wisconsin’s wage payment laws, an employer would likely be required to pay vacation leave to an employee upon separation from employment if the policy did not contain some sort of forfeiture provision. WI Statute 109.01(3).


Sick Leave

Wisconsin law does not require employers to provide employees with sick leave benefits, either paid or unpaid. If an employer chooses to provide sick leave benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.

An employer in Wisconsin may be required to provide an employee sick leave in accordance with Wisconsin’s Family and Medical Leave Act and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act or other federal laws.


Holiday Leave

Wisconsin law does not require private employers to provide employees with either paid or unpaid holiday leave. In Wisconsin, a private employer can require an employee to work holidays. A private employer does not have to pay an employee premium pay, such as 1½ times the regular rate, for working on holidays, unless such time worked qualifies the employee for overtime under standard overtime laws. If an employer chooses to provide either paid or unpaid holiday leave, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.

State holidays

Visit our Wisconsin State Holidays page for a list of holidays recognized and observed by the state of Wisconsin as well as information regarding state laws governing holiday leave for public employers and employees.


Jury Duty Leave

An employer is not required to pay an employee for time spent responding to a jury summons or serving on a jury.

An employer must grant an employee a leave of absence without loss of time in service for the period of jury service. For the purpose of determining seniority or pay advancement, the status of the employee cannot be considered uninterrupted by the jury service.

An employer many not discharge or take any other adverse employment action against an employer due to the employee’s service as a juror.

WI Statute 756.255


Voting Leave

Wisconsin law requires an employer to provide an employee up to three (3) hours of time off to vote if the employee request the leave prior to the day of the vote or election. The voting leave does not need to be paid. An employer may dictate when an employee takes voting leave. WI Statute 6.76


Bereavement Leave

Wisconsin law does not require employers to provide employee bereavement leave. Bereavement leave is leave that is taken by an employee due to the death of another individual, usually a close relative. Employer may choose to provide bereavement leave and may be required to comply with any bereavement policy or practice it maintains.


Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave

Employees in Wisconsin are entitled to medical and family leave under state law and the federal FMLA.

State Family and Medical Leave

Any employer in Wisconsin with at least 50 employees must provide eligible employees with time off for family and medical leave. An employee may take up to six weeks off during a calendar year for child adoption or the birth of a child and up to two additional weeks per year to care for any family member who has a severe health issue. Family members include spouses, siblings, parents, grandparents, in-laws, and other blood-related family members.

Employees may take up to two weeks off in one year to treat their own health problems or recuperate from a serious injury or illness.

The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act

Any employer in Wisconsin with more than 50 employees for at least 20 weeks in the previous or current year must also adhere to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

This FMLA allows employees who have worked more than one year at the same company, worked more than 1,250 hours in the previous year, and worked at a location with 50 employees within a 75-mile radius to receive up to 12 weeks off within 12 months.

An employee qualifies for this leave for:

  • Bonding with a new child
  • Qualifying circumstances arising from military service of a family member
  • Caring for a family member who suffered from serious injuries during active duty
  • Recuperating from a serious illness or condition
  • Caring for a family member with a serious illness or injury.

This 12-month leave will renew every year as long as the employee remains eligible, as stated above. An employee is also entitled to return to their original or an equivalent position when they return to work.


Military Leave

Wisconsin has its own military leave laws that apply to permanent employees called to federal active duty for 90 days or longer. These employees are then entitled to reinstatement after military discharge to their previous position, or a position with the same benefits, pay, and seniority unless the employee is no longer qualified.

The period of active duty may not be longer than five years unless extended by law. If the employer’s circumstances have changed and re-employment is not possible or reasonable, then an active service member who returns from duty may not be re-employed.

Moreover, when an employee is re-employed after military duty and served over 30 days but less than 181 days on duty, the employee may not be discharged in the first 180 days on reemployment except for due cause. If the employee spent more than 180 days on active military duty after reemployment, the person may not be discharged for at least one year after reemployment.


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