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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.”

The Midwest Employer Spring 2014

The Midwest Employer Spring 2014

Wisconsin Limits Employers’ Access to Personal Social Media Accounts of Employees, Job Applicants

Adopting restrictions on employers’ ability to access the social media accounts of employees and job applicants, Wisconsin has joined 12 other states with similar restrictions.

Wisconsin Adopts Password Protection Law

Wisconsin has become the thirteenth state to enact a law limiting the circumstances under which employers may request or require access to the personal internet accounts of applicants and employees. The 2013 Wisconsin Act 208,1 which amends the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA) and will be enforced by the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), prohibits employers from “requesting or requiring” employees and applicants to provide “access information” for their “personal Internet account” or “to otherwise grant access to or allow observation of that account.” A "personal Internet account" is any “Internet-based account that is created and used by [an employee or applicant] exclusively for purposes of personal communications.” “Access information” means the “password or any other security information” that protects access to a personal Internet account. Access information does not include an employee’s personal e-mail address; the Act expressly permits employers to require employees to disclose that information. In addition to prohibiting these requests for access information and access, the new law, as a general rule, prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against (e.g., discharging or refusing to hire) an employee or applicant who exercises their rights under the law.

Wisconsin Introduces Legislation Prohibiting Workplace Discrimination Based on Seasonal Flu Vaccination Status

While some states are clamoring for stricter laws concerning mandatory influenza vaccinations, some lawmakers in Wisconsin have taken the opposite approach. A public hearing was held on November 13, 2013 regarding Assembly Bill 247, which would prohibit Wisconsin employers – including healthcare employers – from demoting, suspending, firing or discriminating against employees who refuse a seasonal influenza vaccination. The bill would also prohibit employers from...

Wisconsin Hospital to Pay $3.5 Million to Settle Nurses’ Meal Period Class Action

A federal court in Wisconsin recently granted preliminary approval to a $3.5 million settlement between a hospital and nearly 1,400 nurses in one of the many recent cases involving automatic deduction of meal breaks from wages.

Elections on my Mind

With the important elections coming up finally on November 6th, a few important reminders are in order with regard to Wisconsin law and employee relations.

Unlike the Cost of Gas, the Cost of Employment Litigation Has Gone Down: Legislation Repeals Monetary Awards for Discrimination Cases in Wisconsin

Employers in Wisconsin, already faced with litigation costs to defend discrimination claims, will no longer be subject to paying compensatory and punitive damages to employees who prevail in their complaints under Wisconsin law. The recently passed Senate Bill 202 (SB 202) will restore the pre-July 2009 provisions of the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA) and limit remedies to back pay, reinstatement or front pay, interest, costs and attorney fees.