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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.

New Wisconsin Law on Restraint and Seclusion of Pupils in Public Schools

A measure that provides specific guidance on the use of seclusion and physical restraint of pupils in Wisconsin’s public schools has been signed into law by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Under the new law, which takes effect on September 1, 2012, the use of seclusion or physical restraint is prohibited, unless the child’s behavior presents a “clear, present, and imminent risk to the physical safety of the pupil or others.” In addition, such measures must represent the “least restrictive” intervention and may last only as long as reasonably necessary to resolve the problem.

Wisconsin Legislature Passes Bill Curbing Damages under Anti-Discrimination Law

A bill has been passed by both houses of the Wisconsin legislature that would repeal the right of successful complainants to receive an award of compensatory and punitive damages in circuit court under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act. Senate Bill 202, introduced September 27, 2011, was passed by the Senate on November 3, 2011, on a straight party-line vote of 17-16. The bill was passed by the Assembly on February 21, 2012, by a vote of 60-35. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is expected to sign the bill.

Legislation Eliminates Compensatory and Punitive Damages Under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act

On February 21, 2012, the Wisconsin Assembly passed legislation that would eliminate compensatory and punitive damage awards as potential remedies for violations of the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA). The bill passed the Senate in November 2011 and is expected to be signed by Republican Governor Scott Walker. The law would repeal 2009 legislation, which provided for compensatory and punitive damages under a capped scheme similar to Title VII.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Narrows Scope of Workers’ Compensation Refusal to Rehire Statute

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently had the opportunity to review the scope of the workers’ compensation refusal to rehire statute [Wis. Stat. §102.35(3)]. The statute prohibits employers from refusing to rehire employees who have suffered on-the-job injuries.