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Milwaukee Employment Law Blog

Worker protections under FMLA

Under the Family Medical Leave Act, qualified employees in Wisconsin may take unpaid leave in certain situations. Employers are not allowed to take any action that may abridge, deny or otherwise make it not possible for an employee to take leave if they are eligible to do so. Furthermore, employers are not allowed to take any type of retaliatory action against any employee who exercises his or her rights under the act.

Federal law dictates who is and who is not an eligible employee under the FMLA. If an employer has more than 50 employees, an employee may be eligible for protection under FMLA. Additionally, that employee must have worked at the company for 20 workweeks during the current or proceeding calendar year. Employers may be federal agencies or they may be in the private sector.

What are the requirements for the FMLA?

Employers in Wisconsin with 50 or more employees are required by state and federal law to grant their employees medical leave in certain situations. The Family and Medical Leave Act was passed by Congress in 1993, and the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act added to and amended certain provisions of the federal law.

Under the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act, workers are entitled to six weeks of leave when a child is born or adopted and two weeks of leave for the care of the child. Workers may also take two weeks of leave when they are seriously ill or to care for a seriously ill spouse, domestic partner, parent or parent of a domestic partner. However, the Wisconsin law caps the amount of leave taken by a worker annually at eight weeks while the federal law provides for up to 12 weeks of leave.

Appellate ruling in whistleblower case could affect WI law

A recent federal appellate court ruling in a whistle-blower case has the potential to affect how Wisconsin and other states handle whistle-blower discrimination and retaliatory discharge claims. In its ruling, the court overturned a district court's decision to dismiss a whistle-blower claim. The appeals court also ruled the whistle-blower has a right to a jury trial on his claim.

In the case, a man who served as a research scientist in a company's plan to dispose of hazardous waste was fired by a subcontractor company that was engaged in construction of the plant that was intended to deal with the waste. The firing came after a series of emails between the subcontractor and the primary contractor on the work site. The plant's construction had been stopped following the plaintiff's reporting of technical and safety issues with the construction.

Wisconsin laws could be effected by pending Supreme Court case

Wisconsin workplace pregnancy discrimination laws have the potential to be effected by a case that is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. A woman's lawsuit against UPS for placing her on unpaid leave instead of putting her on light duty during her pregnancy will be heard by the court, according to reports.

The lawsuit dates from when the woman was pregnant in 2006 and working for UPS. Her obstetrician placed her on work restrictions due to her pregnancy and sent a note detailing that she should not be required to lift more than 20 pounds. UPS responded by placing her on unpaid leave despite the fact that they routinely put people with other types of temporary disabilities on light duty. Thus, she alleges she was treated differently than similarly situated workers because of her pregnancy.

Preventing disability discrimination in the workplace

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has released a publication concerning the rights persons with disabilities possess in regards to employment. Qualified people with disabilities are protected under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Law. Disability discrimination is also prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

A disability is a substantial mental or physical impairment that limits one's capacity to work, achieve or engage in major life activities. Those with mental illnesses or certain diseases are generally protected even if an illness or disease is treated, and the law also protects those with disabilities that do not interfere with the ability to perform essential tasks. When a worker with disabilities is qualified, he or she is allowed reasonable accommodations while on the job. A written diagnosis from a health care provider is evidence of a disability, but some conditions may qualify as disabilities after review.

Are there any exceptions in regards to the FMLA?

New Wisconsin mothers who seek time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act may find that exceptions in the existing legislation provide their employers with various legal grounds to deny them benefits. Although this law ostensibly guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leaveĀ for new parents of both genders, employers can potentially avoid their obligations in a number of ways.

For instance, when mothers haven't worked at their current companies for more than 25 hours per week for 50 weeks, their employers can receive an FMLA exemption. This renders the mother in question ineligible for benefits. Companies that have fewer than 50 local employees may gain similar FLMA immunity. It's also important to remember that even if an individual does get to take his or her FMLA-mandated leave, the employer does not have to count the time towards their work hours or add it to their vacation time.

Understanding religious discrimination

Employees in Wisconsin may benefit from learning more about the religious discrimination as defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This type of discrimination occurs when an applicant or employee is untreated unfavorably or unfairly because of his or her religion. There are federal laws designed to protect an individual's moral and ethical beliefs and members who are apart of renowned organized religious sects, such as Islam, Christianity or Judaism.

Religious discrimination is prohibited from existing at the workplace, this include any impact on fringe benefits, training, hiring, practices, quality of pay termination, layoffs or any other aspect of employment. It is also considered unlawful to harass someone due to his or her religion. The illegal harassment may be described as creating an offensive or hostile work environment for an employee or adverse action against an employee because of their religious affiliations. The EEOC also considers religious discrimination to include treating someone unfairly due to his or her spouse's religious beliefs or affiliations.

Q&A: How do I qualify for Social Security Disability benefits?

The criteria for obtaining Social Security Disability benefits are the same in Wisconsin as they are elsewhere in the country. The first requirement is that an applicant must have sufficient work history before they are eligible to receive benefits. In certain circumstances, an applicant may receive benefits under a parent's Social Security record.

For those with sufficient work history, the first determination is whether the applicant is working. Individuals earning over $1,070 per month generally are not considered disabled. If an applicant is not working or is earning less than $1,070, the next step is demonstrating that the applicant's medical condition interferes with basic work activities.

Social Security benefits increase for 2015

November 2013 image.jpgSocial Security, Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income benefits will increase in 2015 due to a 1.7% Cost of Living Adjustment.  This translates to a monthly increase of approximately $12-19 for SSI and SSDI recipients.  Individuals collecting SSI will see the increase begin on December 31, 2014 while other Social Security recipients will see the increase in their January 2015 checks.  

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