Employment Law in Wisconsin
If you have suffered treatment from an employer in Wisconsin that violates employment laws, learning more about the law can help. Hiring an employment law attorney can best help you navigate the process, and increase the chances of winning your case.
What Is Employment Law?
Employment law covers the rights, responsibilities, and obligations within the employer-employee relationship. Employment lawyers serve both employees and employers, though they generally focus their practice on serving one or the other. Regardless of who their clients are, their goal is to present a solid case and defend them.
Understanding Employment Law Labor Rights in Wisconsin
Employees have a wide range of rights that employers cannot violate. If employers violate these rights, workers can file a complaint against them. Each state has unique labor laws and some also make provisions for qualifying independent contractors. Below are the most common topics covered in employment law across the country.
Wage and Hour Laws
Laws protect non-exempt employees from being forced to work for low wages and a certain amount of hours without increased pay. These are the wage and hour laws. They outline the minimum wages an employee can earn as well as the maximum amount of hours worked before qualifying employees should get paid overtime.
Wisconsin, like every other state, has unique wage and hour laws. However, there are federal laws in place that are minimum requirements for all states. For example, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, but most states exceed that amount.
The Fair Labor Standards Act states that non-exempt employees can only work 40 hours per week at their regular wage rates. If they exceed that number, the employer must pay them overtime rates at a minimum of time and a half. Some states also require weekend overtime pay, holiday pay, and overtime for working more than a certain number of hours each day.
According to Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development, Wisconsin’s hourly minimum wage is currently $7.25, matching the federal minimum. However, the hourly minimum wage for tipped employees is only $2.13. According to Wisconsin Public Radio, legislation was recently introduced to the State Legislature that would raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour.
If you’ve been injured on the job in Wisconsin, you might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. This includes payments for lost wages and past or future medical bills that resulted from your workplace injury.
In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation, you must meet these requirements:
- You must be an employee.
- You must have a work-related illness or injury.
- Your employer must carry workers’ comp insurance.
- You must meet the deadline for filing workers’ comp claims.
There are, however, exceptions to these requirements that may still make you eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, if your employer is denying you benefits, you should contact an experienced Wisconsin attorney for assistance with your case.
Termination Rights under Wisconsin Employment Law
If you live in an at-will state, or your employment is “at-will,” you can be terminated from your job without notice and without cause. However, even at-will employees have rights when it comes to termination. A violation of those rights can be wrongful termination.
Here are some reasons your termination might be wrongful even if you are an at-will employee:
- Written promises or contracts
- Implied promises
- Violations of public policy
- Breaches of good faith and fair dealing
- Workplace retaliation
- Whistleblowing violations
Wisconsin became a right-to-work state in 2015. This means a Wisconsin employer and a union cannot enter into a collective bargaining agreement that makes union membership and dues payment a condition of employment. Wisconsin is also an at-will employment state. This means an employer can discharge an employee without notice, for any reason or no reason at all. Similarly, an employee can quit for any reason or no reason at all. Keep in mind, an employer cannot fire an employee for any illegal reason, such as discrimination, under the law.
If you believe your termination was wrongful due to the above circumstances, then contact a qualified Wisconsin employment law attorney right away. This is because there are time constraints on how long you can wait to file a claim.
If you’ve lost your job, you can file for unemployment benefits with the state unemployment agency. The agency will either approve or deny your claim. If it’s approved, you’ll receive monthly unemployment checks and benefits in the mail after filing weekly unemployment claims. Still, unemployment claims can be denied for a number of reasons, including:
- If you were fired for misconduct.
- You voluntarily quit your job.
- You do not have enough earnings during the work period.
If your claim is denied, then you can appeal the decision if you think it’s the wrong choice. Working with an experienced Wisconsin attorney during the appeal process can improve your chances of winning the case.
Paid and Unpaid Time Off
Additionally, some states require paid time off as well as medical and family leave for employees. Oftentimes, this is combined into one singular paid time off, (PTO), amount. Laws can vary state-to-state, but typically PTO is accrued over time and you’ll get a set amount of PTO days per year.
Some states have laws that force the employer to pay for unused PTO. If you are not given proper PTO or your employer doesn’t follow your state’s medical or family leave laws, you can file a complaint.
Wisconsin does not require employers to provide sick leave to employees, either paid or unpaid. Similarly, paid or unpaid holiday time is at the discretion of the employer. However the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act requires Wisconsin employers with at least 50 employees to provide unpaid family and medical leave. Eligible employees may take up to six weeks of leave for the birth or adoption of a child. As well, they may take up to 2 weeks for the care of a seriously ill loved-one. Furthermore, they may take up to 2 weeks for their own serious health condition.
Child Labor Laws
Child labor laws are a lot more strict than regular labor laws and require employers to be extra careful when scheduling minors. Each state has its own child labor laws that outline the number of hours a minor can work per week. These include how often they should have breaks, how many days in a row they can work, and how late they can work each night.
All Wisconsin employers of minors are required to display an informational poster, entitled Hours and Times of Day Minors May Work in Wisconsin. This poster must be displayed where employed minors are permitted to work. Wisconsin law prohibits all minors from certain dangerous or immoral occupations, including adult bookstores, mining, and selling liquor. There is an additional list of prohibited jobs that minors under 16 cannot do. These include working street carnivals, traveling shows, or gun clubs. Furthermore, Wisconsin employers hiring minors aged 12 to 15 must possess a valid work permit before work can commence.
Wisconsin Employment Anti Discrimination Laws
A collection of federal anti-discrimination laws protect workers from employment discrimination. Following are brief descriptions of some of these anti-discrimination acts:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Prohibits employers from selecting job applicants and employees based on race, religion, color, sex, and national origin.
- Age Discrimination Act: Prohibits discrimination based on age for employees over the age of 40 years old.
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition.
- Americans with Disabilities Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities at any time during the application or hiring process or once the person holds the job.
- Equal Pay Act: Requires employers to give men and women equal pay for equal work.
If a coworker, employer, or client sexually harasses someone in the workplace; the employee has a set of rights to protect them from further harassment. Laws also offer protection from retaliation, such as getting fired for reporting a manager. If you or someone you know is being sexually harassed in the workplace, report it to your HR department.
The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA) prohibits discrimination and harassment at work on the basis of sex or sexual orientation. The WFEA protects employees from three categories of sexual harassment:
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment
- Hostile work environment sexual harassment
- Sexual harassment by an employer
However, sexual harassment in the workplace training is currently not required by Wisconsin law.
Work With an Experienced Wisconsin Employment Lawyer
If you have employment law concerns, or you’re currently preparing for a case in Wisconsin, then working with an experienced attorney can help. The hard part is finding the right one. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Wisconsin state lines.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!