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Lawmaker proposes organ donation leave of absence (UPDATE)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A state senator whose husband died while waiting for a transplant is proposing legislation requiring Wisconsin employers to allow unpaid leave for donating an organ.

The bill, unveiled Tuesday by Republican Sen. Alberta Darling, would apply to companies with 50 or more full-time employees and would provide up to six weeks of unpaid leave.

Darling’s husband died in March at age 71 while waiting for a kidney and pancreas transplant.

“I know firsthand what it’s like to wait and hope,” Darling said.

The senator says the bill could boost donation of organ donations because people wouldn’t be worried about losing their jobs if they take time off for surgery.

“By removing barriers to organ donation, more families won’t have to wait, hope will come and their loved one will get a second chance,” she said.

About 2,300 people are waiting for transplants in Wisconsin, most needing kidneys or livers, the State Journal reported.

Federal law allows 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for medical reasons. Some employers consider the federal Family Medical Leave Act to cover living donors, but others say it does not apply because it’s voluntary surgery.

Federal and state workers in Wisconsin get paid leave, typically for 30 days, for serving as organ donors. Dane County, the city of Madison, UW Health and Meriter-UnityPoint Health have similar policies.

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