On March 10, 2022, the Wisconsin Supreme Court released its decision in Cree, Inc. v. Labor and Industry Review Commission, which provides significant clarity for employers evaluating whether a domestic-related crime of an employee or applicant is substantially related to a job and thus a lawful reason for discharging or not hiring the individual.
On March 9, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued an employer-friendly decision in Anderson v. Nations Lending Corporation. Despite some facially bad facts—including that the employee was discharged only four days after returning from leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and subject to a supervisor’s comments about her being “sick a lot”—the court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the employer.
On January 18, 2022, the City of Milwaukee Common Council passed an ordinance that would require masks to be worn indoors until March 1, 2022. The city’s acting mayor has not yet signed the order, but he has signaled that he is likely to do so.
Wisconsin is one of a limited number of states that prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of arrest or conviction records. The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA) protects “properly qualified individuals” from unlawful discrimination “by reason of their … arrest record[s] [or] conviction record[s].” Employers defending against claims of arrest- or conviction-record discrimination under the WFEA may raise a defense to liability that asks whether an employee’s or applicant’s charge or conviction “substantially relate[s] to the circumstances of the particular job[.]” That is, the WFEA provides that an employer is not prohibited from suspending an employee who is charged with a felony, misdemeanor, or other offense, or from refusing to employ an individual who is convicted of a crime that is substantially related to his or her position.
On May 20, 2021, the Wisconsin Supreme Court limited the tort claims an employee may bring based on alleged conduct that occurred between injuries covered under the state’s workers’ compensation law. The opinion in Graef v. Continental Indemnity Company may support employer arguments to limit employment-related litigation claims brought by employees because worker’s compensation provides an exclusive remedy to employees injured in the course of employment.
Like the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, Wisconsin law allows hospitality employers to pay certain tipped employees less than the minimum wage with the understanding that the tips they receive will cover the difference. More specifically, Wisconsin law allows employers to claim a tip credit of up to $4.92 per hour for employees who “customarily and regularly receive tips.” Among other things, Wisconsin law requires employers to have a “signed tip declaration” in order to claim the credit.
On February 25, 2021, Wisconsin joined Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming in enacting a COVID-19 litigation shield law. Governor Tony Evers signed a bill providing entities broad immunity from “civil liability for the death of or injury to any individual or [for] damages caused by an act or omission resulting in or relating to exposure, directly or indirectly, to … COVID-19.”
On January 5, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a decision in Kellogg v. Ball State University that expanded the scope of potential evidence plaintiffs may rely on to support their Equal Pay Act (EPA) claims. The decision serves as a warning to Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin employers to consider reviewing employee compensation to ensure compliance with pay equity requirements.
In November 2020, the Common Council for the City of Madison, Wisconsin, passed ordinances decriminalizing the possession and use of small amounts of cannabis or cannabis derivatives within city limits.
Elections in the United States are scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Not only will the office of president of the United States be contested, but all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for grabs. At the state level, elections will be held for the governorships of 11 U.S. states and 2 U.S. territories.
In recent months, Wisconsin federal courts have witnessed a dramatic increase in class litigation raising breach of fiduciary duty claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). These claims target sponsoring employers and individuals who oversee plan investments and plan fees for employer-sponsored 401(k) plans.
On July 30, 2020, Wisconsin joined 31 other states—including Alabama, California, and Pennsylvania—with a statewide face covering order. Governor Tony Evers issued Emergency Order #1, requiring all individuals in Wisconsin over the age of five and medically able to do so to don cloth face coverings (not including face shields or mesh coverings) any time they are “indoors or in an enclosed space, other than a private residence,” and in the presence of others outside their households.
On May 13, 2020, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its decision in Wisconsin Legislature v. Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm, et al. and declared the state’s Safer at Home Order unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable, creating a rush by local jurisdictions to issue orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19, resulting in uncertainty for businesses as to how to operate.
On May 8, 2020, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) published a series of general and industry-specific guidelines to assist businesses with reopening under Governor Tony Evers’s “Badger Bounce Back” plan. Guidelines are available for many industries, including agriculture, construction, entertainment/amusement, gym and fitness centers, hair and nail salons, hospitality/lodging, manufacturing, professional services, public facilities, restaurants, retail, transportation, outdoor gatherings, outdoor recreation, and warehouse/wholesale trades.
On April 16, 2020, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm issued an updated Safer at Home Order (Emergency Order #28), which extends and makes certain adjustments to the agency’s original order that took effect on March 25, 2020. The updated order is effective April 24, 2020, and will remain in effect until 8:00 a.m. on May 26, 2020. The state also issued a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to the order.
On March 24, 2020, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers issued “Emergency Order #12: Safer at Home Order” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order, which requires Wisconsin residents to “stay at home or place of residence” except to engage in certain activities, is similar to those issued in several other states (including California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania).
Following a nationwide trend (including California, Delaware, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and other states), Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced he will be issuing a safer-at-home order in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Governor Evers stated he would issue the order on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.
On February 10, 2020, bipartisan cosponsors in the Wisconsin State Assembly introduced a trio of bills targeting the use of personal data information and modeled after the requirements of the European General Data Protection Regulation. Titled by their sponsors as the “Wisconsin Data Privacy Act,” the three bills work together to regulate what data a company may collect on an individual, when the company may collect it, how the company may use it, to whom the company may give it, and how long the company may retain it.
Employers, you see this movie all too often. You tolerate, and then ultimately discharge, a poor-performing employee who displays a bad attitude. Unfortunately, supervisors have not documented the employee’s prior instances of insubordinate and adversarial behavior. In addition, he hurt himself on the job, filed a workers’ compensation claim, and presented medical restrictions. In his mind, he cannot believe that he was the problem. So he sues, alleging that you failed to accommodate his disability and unlawfully terminated his employment.
In a matter of first impression before the court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently held in Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority, Nos. 17-3508 and 18-2199 (June 12, 2019), that obesity is not a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) unless a plaintiff can demonstrate that it is caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition. With the decision, the Seventh Circuit brought clarity to a novel issue previously unresolved for employers in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.