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Up in Smoke? New Wisconsin Governor Proposes Marijuana Legalization and Host of New Employment Laws

Wisconsin employers reviewing Governor Tony Evers’ very first budget proposal may be surprised by the number of the employment-related items. The substance of those proposals may also catch employers by surprise, with some observers viewing the Evers budget as an effort to erase the employer-friendly legacy of the former governor, Scott Walker. Presented to the state legislature on February 28, 2019, the Evers budget proposes more than a return to the pre-Walker era, however. If the new governor’s budget proposal is an indication of his legislative and enforcement priorities, Wisconsin employers should closely consider its specifics.

PODCAST: Wisconsin FMLA vs. Federal FMLA in a Nutshell

In this episode, Keith Kopplin and Sarah Platt compare Wisconsin’s Family and Medical Leave Act with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and discuss the key differences and top things employers should know.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Ends Required Deference to State Administrative Agencies' Interpretations, Allowing Employers to Push for Broader Review of Agency Decisions

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently reversed its nearly half-century practice of deferring to state administrative agencies’ interpretations of the laws the agencies are responsible for enforcing. Based on the decision in Tetra Tech EC, Inc. v. DOR,1 Wisconsin courts need now only consider the agency interpretations’ persuasive value, but give them no deference. This shift likely will permit affected parties to more substantively challenge agencies’ interpretations of law in the state court system.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules Employees Who Violate Attendance Policies May Not Be Entitled to Unemployment Benefits

Wisconsin employers that have found themselves frustrated by the fact that they can end an employment relationship for legitimate, business-related reasons yet the employee can still collect unemployment benefits were granted some relief by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in one of its final decisions of the 2017–2018 term. In Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development v. Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission, No. 2016AP1365 (June 26, 2018) (also known as Beres), the court examined a 2013 change to the Wisconsin statute controlling an individual’s disqualification from unemployment benefits and whether an employee may be denied such benefits based on an employer’s attendance policy that is stricter than the statutory standard. The court concluded that the statutory number of absences by an employee that will result in disqualification from unemployment benefits may be overridden by an employer’s written policy that implements a stricter standard.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Focuses on Employer’s Actual Knowledge in Disability Discrimination Ruling

In a recent opinion, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin rejected the “inference method” of causation that the Labor and Industry Review Commission has used for more than two decades to find liability in cases in which an employer takes adverse action against an employee for conduct that the employee claims was caused by a disability. The court concluded that the inference method of causation is inconsistent with the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA) because it relieves the employee of the burden of proving discriminatory intent. Wisconsin Bell, Inc. v. Labor and Industry Review Commission, No. 2016AP355 (June 26, 2018).

Wisconsin Supreme Court Holds That State Disability Discrimination Law Requires Proof of Intent to Establish Liability

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently overturned a longstanding line of cases that allowed disabled employees to prevail in discrimination cases without proving the employer intended to discriminate or was even aware that the employee was disabled. On June 26, 2018, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Wisconsin Bell, Inc. v. Labor and Industry Review Commission and Charles Carlson (Carlson).1 The case involves the Labor and Industry Review Commission’s (“LIRC”) expansive definition of what it means to discriminate against employees “because of” a disability under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (“WFEA”).

Commission Overrules Xu v. Epic Systems, Finds Valid Arbitration Agreement or Waiver Bars Prosecution of WFEA Claims Before ERD

In Ionetz v. Menard, Inc., the Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission overruled its previous and highly controversial decision Xu v. Epic Systems, Inc..

Wisconsin Law Prohibits Local Regulation of Several Employment Issues, Does Not Preempt Discrimination Ordinances

On April 16, 2018, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed an amended version of 2017 Assembly Bill 748, thereby declaring a number of employment issues to be matters of statewide concern and therefore beyond the scope of municipal regulation. Although the bill originally included a provision that would have prohibited local regulation of employment discrimination, that provision was removed by an amendment. As such, municipalities remain free to enact and enforce equal employment opportunity ordinances at the local level like the Madison Equal Opportunities Ordinance and the De Pere Non-Discrimination in Housing, Public Accommodation and Employment Ordinance, both of which remain in effect.

Wisconsin Legislature Preempts Local Enactment of Wage and Hour Regulations

Joining more than two dozen other states that have barred local enactment of minimum wage or other employment laws, on March 22, 2018 the Wisconsin legislature passed Assembly Bill 748, intended to promote statewide uniformity in the regulation of employment practices. AB 748 prevents local governments and municipalities from enacting and enforcing their own ordinances relating to various employment matters, including several areas pertaining to wage and hour law. Governor Scott Walker is expected to sign the Bill into law in the near future.

Still "Open for Business" – New Wisconsin Legislation to Preempt Most Local Employment Ordinances

In recent years, cities, counties, and other local government bodies across the country have enacted ordinances increasing the minimum wage, granting paid and unpaid sick leave, placing restrictions on how employees are scheduled, and requiring employers to enter into “labor peace agreements” with unions. As this activity has intensified, employers with operations in multiple jurisdictions within a state or across multiple states have been confronted with the onerous task of complying with a patchwork of conflicting employment rules. Wisconsin is about to join the list of over a dozen states that have taken action to preempt local governments from passing such ordinances.