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Businesses on hold in sick leave case (UPDATE)

By Sean Ryan

Building Service Inc. will move about two miles west to Menomonee Falls if Milwaukee’s sick leave law takes effect.

“We lease our building,” said James Macejkovic, executive vice president of the Milwaukee-based contractor. “We’ve done a search, and we’ve got options that are available. And if we have to, we’ll pull the trigger.”

Macejkovic will have to wait to make that decision because a state appeals court Thursday referred to the Wisconsin Supreme Court the case challenging the sick leave law.

There is no timetable for the Supreme Court to decide if it will take the case, said Tom Sheehan, court information officer for the director of state courts. But, he said, the court tries to rule in all cases within its annual term, which ends in June.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce is challenging the law, and 9to5, National Association of Working Women is defending it.

The city of Milwaukee removed itself from the case after a circuit court judge ruled in June the law is unconstitutional.

Milwaukee voters approved the law in November 2008, but MMAC’s lawsuit kept the law from taking effect.

“Our preference would have been that it was gone long ago,” said Steve Baas, MMAC director of government affairs. “But we don’t get to make that decision.”

The Milwaukee law, if enacted, would require workers get at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked in Milwaukee. Companies with fewer than 10 workers would offer at least five sick days, and larger companies would let employees accrue at least nine days.

MMAC claims the question on the November referendum ballot was too vague and did not accurately describe the law. 9to5 argues the opposite.

Amy Stear, Wisconsin director for 9to5, said there are 122,000 workers in Milwaukee who have fewer sick days than the city law would require. She said the appeals court decision is a positive sign because it does not affirm the Milwaukee County Circuit Court ruling.

“We hope that this issue will be dealt with soon,” Stear said.

Macejkovic agreed, but he wants a different outcome. He said the law would cost his company $45,000 a year and, in today’s tight bidding climate, would prevent him from competing with companies outside Milwaukee.

“It’s that Milwaukee would be an island is the problem,” Macejkovic said. “This isn’t about some guy having the right to stay home if his kid is sick.”

Macejkovic said he has talked to his landlord and, if the sick leave law survives the lawsuit, he would be able to get out of his lease.

“How long do you think it’ll take,” he asked, “for everybody to move out of the city of Milwaukee if this passes?”

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