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Milwaukee Employment Law Blog

Social security disability insurance faces steep cuts

Millions of people across Wisconsin and the rest of the U.S. depend on their social security disability check every month as their sole income, or at least the majority of it. This kind of social welfare has been a staple in America since it was introduced by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and it has faced its share of opposition. But, if nothing is done soon, the 11 million people who rely on the program could lose about 20 percent of their benefits.

The social security disability fund is running out at what seems the most inopportune time: election season. As such, many politicians do not want to make a move either way on the issue. If nothing is done, benefits could drop from about $1,000 a month to about $800. In addition, benefits will likely not increase with the cost of living this year. 

Budget repeals Wisconsin Medicaid whistle-blower provision

The latest state budget includes a surprise for potential whistle-blowers who would seek to report Medicaid fraud under the auspices of the Wisconsin False Claims for Medical Assistance Act: the act has been repealed.

The repeal of the Act, which was enacted in 2007 and modeled on the Federal False Claims Act, was undertaken with little publicity before or after the budget passage. Lawmakers who have been contacted about the repeal have been tight-lipped about it before and after it took effect; no public hearings about the repeal were held in advance, and legislators have either not replied to inquiries about the repeal or have referred to other legislators who have not replied.

Taking action when an employer engages in questionable or illegal business activities

Upon being hired and throughout one's time as an employee with a company, he or she may be required to complete various training courses. Often, topics related to business ethics and applicable company policies are included in these training materials and sessions.

For example, training may include information about confidentiality, fair competition and conflicts of interest. Much like an employee who breaches or violates company policies or federal laws may face disciplinary and legal action, so too can an employer who engages in unfair, unethical and illegal business practices.

Is your employer misclassifying workers?

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, all Americans deserve and are entitled to a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. U.S. labor laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act help ensure that U.S. workers earn at least minimum wage and are compensated for overtime hours. Additionally, several other laws help protect the rights of workers with regard to pay, time off and other benefits. However, in order to reap the benefits of most of these employment and labor laws, a worker must be designated as a full or part-time employee.

Recently, there have been many questions and much debate about when a worker should be classified as an employee versus an independent contractor. The distinction is important from both an employer's and employee's standpoint as the potential costs and benefits are significant.

You don’t have to put up with verbal abuse

A workplace is to be a place where you can get your work done in relative peace, without facing harassment or abuse from your coworkers. Yet, so many Wisconsin workers deal with verbal abuse constantly, violating their employees’ rights. While this may be becoming more common, you do not have to tolerate it.

An estimated 35 percent of all employees in the United States say they have been bullied at one time or another, the most common form of which is verbal abuse. For many different reasons, such as fear of retaliation or being looked down upon, verbal abuse from coworkers, supervisors and others goes unreported. As such, it is often the job of the business owner to be vigilant for this and other forms of bullying and to stop it before it ever starts. 

Dunkin’ Donuts sued for ADA violation

Disability comes in many different forms, and it is the duty of employers to both avoid discrimination and provide reasonable accommodation. OHM Concessions Group, LLC and their subsidiary, coffee chain Dunkin’ Donuts, are being sued for forgetting these responsibilities laid out by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A regional manager for Dunkin’ Donuts was fired for having to take time off after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The manager, who had otherwise performed her job duties successfully, requested 4-8 weeks of leave, unpaid, to undergo treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Rather than providing reasonable accommodation, her supervisor fired her, just three days before her medical leave began.

How long-term disability benefits help Wisconsin workers

Long-term disability insurance is highly beneficial for workers throughout Wisconsin who find themselves unable to work. Generally, your claim will fall under one of two categories: Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income Program. There are different benefits and criteria for each, but both can help Wisconsin residents who are unable to work full time.

To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, an adult who is old enough to receive Social Security benefits must be involved. This can happen in one of three ways. If you are under the age of 65 but have worked long enough to qualify for Social Security, you may receive SSDI if you are no longer able to work. Or, if you have had a disability since before the age of 22 and you are dependent on a parent who receives Social Security, you may still receive benefits when they pass away. Finally, if you are between 50 and 60 years old and your recently deceased spouse qualified for Social Security, you may receive their benefits.

How federal and state family and medical leave laws work together

The United States government has specific extended leave statutes in place, called the Family and Medical Leave Act, to protect workers across the nation. State laws cannot detract from this legislation, but they can provide additional benefits. If a state or federal law is weaker than the other, the stronger one must be followed. Wisconsin has its own laws that provide leave in a number of circumstances for employees across the state.

Under both state and federal law, coverage must be provided by companies with at least 50 employees. Wisconsin law states companies must have that number of workers for the past six months, while the federal government reduces that number to just 20 weeks. In addition, there are different regulations regarding the amount of notice given to take leave. The national government requires at least 30 days’ notice, if practical. Wisconsin, on the other hand, only mandates that workers give reasonable notice in light of the circumstances.

Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act works, so why repeal it?

The need to protect Wisconsin workers attempting to balance family responsibility with jobs and careers is the reason why the state enacted its Family Medical Leave Act in 1988. The law prevents worker discrimination for taking family leave or medical leave.

Five years after the state enacted its FMLA, the federal government followed with its own statute. The two laws have coexisted as dual protections for state residents who might be victims of pregnancy discrimination or whose employers might otherwise seek to take advantage of them or subject them to discrimination for taking medical leave.

Overtime pay rights may be expanded soon

The Fair Labor Standards Act may soon see revisions as President Barack Obama and other key politicians call for more employees to be eligible for overtime pay. While the proposed federal law is receiving backlash from business owners, it would mean more equitable pay for millions of workers across the nation.

As the law stands now, the Fair Labor Standards Act states that employees who make less than $23,660 annually and work more than 40 hours a week must be paid time and a half for those extra hours. But, employees who make more or are classified as executives, administrators or professionals may be working well over the 40-hour limit and are not properly compensated.

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