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Proposed Wisconsin Legislation Would Make It Easier for Employers to Enforce Restrictive Covenants

The Wisconsin legislature may soon dramatically change the law that governs restrictive covenants, making them easier to enforce.

Unions Sue to Stop Wisconsin’s New Right-to-Work Law

The day after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) signed the state’s new right-to-work act, unions struck back with a complaint and a motion for a restraining order and temporary injunction. Three unions in Wisconsin, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (“IAM”) District 10 and Local 1061, the United Steelworkers (“USW”), and the AFL-CIO, banded together against the State of Wisconsin, Governor Walker, and a handful of Wisconsin state agency officials to seek injunctive relief in Dane County Circuit Court.

Wisconsin Becomes 25th Right-to-Work State

The Wisconsin State Assembly has voted to make Wisconsin the 25th right-to-work state in the country.

Wisconsin Becomes Next "Right to Work" State

On March 6, 2015, Wisconsin’s State Assembly approved legislation that will make Wisconsin the 25th “Right to Work” state in the country. Governor Walker has said he intends to sign 2015 Assembly Bill 61 into law within days. The legislation significantly modifies Chapter 111 of the Wisconsin Statutes by, among other things, prohibiting employers and labor organizations from requiring employees to join, remain a member of, or financially support a labor organization as a condition of employment. Violation of the law will be a Class A misdemeanor. A brief summary of the key points follows.

Wisconsin is Really Open for Business: Governor Signs New Right-to-Work Law

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s motto is that Wisconsin is “open for business,” and he means it. On March 9, 2015, Governor Walker signed into law Senate Bill 44, which made Wisconsin the 25th right-to-work state in the country. With the surrounding Great Lakes states of Michigan and Indiana already enacting right to work laws (and Iowa already being a right-to-work state), the momentum in Wisconsin was to follow so it would not be at a competitive disadvantage in retaining and attracting new businesses and job growth.

Independent Contractor . . . or Not? DOL and Wisconsin DWD Team Up to Reduce Employee Misclassification

On January 20, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that Wisconsin had become the latest state to join the “Misclassification Initiative,” which is designed to protect the rights of employees “by preventing their misclassification as independent contractors or other nonemployee statuses.” Wisconsin is the 19th state to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the DOL for the purpose of sharing information and coordinating enforcement regarding employee classification. The MOU between the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division and Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development has an initial term of three years.

Employer Violated Wisconsin FMLA When it Terminated Unauthorized Worker who Took Medical Leave

A Wisconsin court of appeals was not swayed by a recent argument that an employer did not violate the Wisconsin FMLA when the employer terminated an employee returning from medical leave for lacking work authorization. In Burlington Graphic Systems, Inc. v. Department of Workforce Development, Appeal No. 2014AP762, an undocumented employee, Karen Alvarez, of Burlington Graphic Systems took one week of leave after surgery. When Alvarez returned to work, the company terminated her employment for unexcused absences. The employee then filed a complaint against the company with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. The Department found probable cause that the Wisconsin FMLA had been violated and set a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The company rehired the employee prior to the hearing, and required her to complete a Form I-9 as a new hire. Alvarez could not produce documents proving she was authorized to work so Burlington, as a result the company terminated her employment.

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Holds Employees Cannot Contract Away Their Right to Paid Break Time

What are the legal rules that determine when an employer must pay non-exempt employees for time spent taking rest and meal breaks? The Wisconsin Court of Appeals recently held that Husco International, Inc., (“Husco”) was obligated to pay its employees for 20 minute breaks even though the breaks had been unpaid for years as provided in a collective bargaining agreement. The case, Aguilar v. Husco International, Inc., illustrates the principle that employees cannot contract away their Wisconsin wage and hour rights.

Despite Recent Legislation, Wisconsin Employers Should Still Consider Tracking The Hours Worked By Their Exempt Employees

State and federal wage and hour laws require Wisconsin employers to maintain accurate records of, among other information, the hours worked by their non-exempt employees. Until very recently, Wisconsin law extended this requirement to exempt employees, too. Although there is no private cause of action for inaccurate or incomplete wage and hour records under Wisconsin law, these records can be among the strongest evidence against employee claims of unpaid work.

Noncompete Case Certified to Wisconsin Supreme Court on Issue of Consideration

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court for “guidance” as to whether additional consideration is required to support a covenant not to compete entered into during an at-will employment relationship. The case, Runzheimer International, LTD v. Friedlen, involves an action by Runzheimer International, Ltd to enforce a non-compete agreement signed by David Friedlen in 2009, after Friedlen had been working at Runzheimer as an at-will employee for nearly 20 years. Signing the agreement was made a condition of Friedlen’s continued employment and his participation in the company’s yearly incentive plan. The agreement did not increase Friedlen’s salary, nor did it make him eligible for incentives that he had not been eligible for prior to signing the agreement. The trial court found that the non-compete was invalid because it lacked sufficient consideration. Runzheimer appealed, arguing that there should be no difference in how courts treat restrictive covenants entered into at the start of employment and those entered into after years of employment, because “every day is a new day both for employer and employee in an at-will relationship.”