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Milwaukee Employment Law Blog

Wisconsin gets a “C” for family leave protections

As readers of our Milwaukee employment law blog know, the Family and Medical Leave Act protects eligible workers in a wide variety of situations requiring time away from the workplace. Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave to care for a child or spouse, deal with their own health problem or care for a newborn baby, among other conditions.

A new report from the National Partnership for Women & Families measures family benefits on a state-by-state basis, evaluating how states have gone above and beyond the FMLA (or not gone above and beyond). The 81-page assessment gives Wisconsin a passing grade of C.

How to stop workplace harassment

They came to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and they talked about ways to improve workplaces in America. They were employees and employers, as well as academics, psychologists, advocacy groups, trainers, union representatives and attorneys.

They gave the EEOC task force their ideas about how to prevent workplace harassment and how to stop it once it starts. Now the task force has released its 95-page report chock full of strategies that employers can use to thwart workplace harassment that can include sex discrimination, racially insensitive comments and communications, religious discrimination and hostile physical conduct.

Study: Stopping workplace discrimination spurs innovation

Apple CEO Tim Cook once told the U.S. Congress that adoption of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was not only the right thing to do, but it would also foster and spur the creativity that drives his business. ENDA would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

As you know, Wisconsin's Fair Employment Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but does not extend protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, disability, race, pregnancy, military service, national origin, color, marital status and gender.

Problems piled on problems

The fight to stop wrongdoing in the workplace is ongoing. In far too many cases, sex discrimination takes place, in which one gender is preferred by an employer or manager over the other. In still other cases, an employer will retaliate against a worker courageous enough to step forward and point out problems.

In one recent case far from us in Milwaukee, both sex discrimination and retaliation against a whistleblower are alleged; one problem piled on top of another.

Amtrak off-track on disability discrimination

Its formal name is the National Passenger Railroad Corporation. But it is better known to the public as Amtrak. The national rail system has the Hiawatha line running from Milwaukee to Chicago at least a dozen times a day, its website says.

The site makes no mention of a recent settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit, however. According to the agreement, Amtrak is to pay $112,000 in lost wages and compensatory damages to a man it once offered a job. 

Wisconsin court bolsters arbitration agreements

The imposition of arbitration on the process of resolving employment claims continues. The most recent example comes from the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, which issued a decision making it easier for employers to mandate arbitration for worker claims that employment law has been violated.

In Menard, Inc. v. Dep’t of Workforce Development, a woman was fired after 10 months at her job after the hardware store chain learned that she had a criminal record.

Blowing the whistle on a railroad

Back before modern communications systems made conversations between operators of one train and operators of another as simple as picking up a phone, signals were sent back and forth with blasts on the trains' whistles. Variations in whistle patterns meant different things to nearby railroad workers, drivers of motor vehicles and engineers on other trains.

Today, "whistleblower" has a different meaning, even when it refers to railroads. Two former railroad workers say they were fired in retaliation for their testimony on behalf of a co-worker was injured on the job.

Appeals court: Civil Rights Act doesn't apply to sexual orientation discrimination

In the midst of a tumultuous presidential campaign, some legitimate news gets left behind by national media and Milwaukee outlets. One such instance of (mostly) ignored news can be found in a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago.

The court held that Title VII anti-discrimination protections do not include discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. The court said precedent required its ruling. 

Whistleblowers need to legally protect themselves

To some, the term whistleblower brings up negative connotations. If you were to compare whistleblowers to a "rat" in a mafia movie, that would be a false equivalency. Whistleblowers provide a crucial service in the world of business and employment, ensuring that companies and even individual employees don't misappropriate their power or positions for illegal or nefarious means.

Whistleblowers are also brave people that fill a critical role in the workplace, and they should never be seen as negative. They put their professional lives on the line, even though that sort of risk should never be associated with the act of honestly reporting illegal activity by a company or employee.

Things to know about long-term disability insurance

No one really wants to look into the future and see an onset of differences that can make life difficult. But the reality is many of us will one day have to deal with long-term disability. One quarter of all 20-year-olds today will become disabled before they retire, the Social Security Administration says.

In a recent article, Time magazine urges consumers to be aware of the odds of disabilty, but not to be frightened by statistics into overpaying for long-term disability insurance.

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