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Milwaukee Employment Law Blog

How to apply for disability benefits in Wisconsin

Workers in Wisconsin who are unable to perform their jobs due to an injury may be able to apply for disability benefits. These benefits may replace some or all of the income lost as a result of that inability. As many as 25 percent of all workers are expected to become disabled before age 67, according to the Social Security Administration.

Those who are no longer able to work due to their disability may qualify for long-term disability insurance. Furthermore, those who are unable to work for more than one year may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. In some cases, employees may have disability coverage through their employer as part of an overall benefits package. Employer-provided disability plans are regulated by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

Food workers offered whistle-blower protection

Wisconsin workers employed in the food industry may be interested in the protection they have under federal law if they should bring an issue of concern forward. Those who are engaged in the processing, packing, distribution or holding of food, among other activities, are protected from retaliation if they highlight a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The Food Safety Modernization Act protects employees who bring issues forward to the employer, the state attorney general or federal authorities. The worker can be assured when participating in an investigation or refusing to participate in an activity he or she knows to be a violation of the law that he or she can improve the situation should the employer create a hostile work environment.

Can break periods be deducted from wages?

Wisconsin employees may want to be aware of their rights as they begin a new job to ensure that there is no confusion with regard to break periods. An employer's handling of break periods may affect the manner in which one's paid time is computed, and the age of a worker makes a difference in how certain standards are applied as well.

State employment law requires that those under the age of 18 be provided a minimum break of 30 minutes if the work period is six hours or longer. This meal period should be duty-free. A duty-free lunch period does not count as paid time. Although shorter breaks are not required by Wisconsin law, they may be offered by an employer.

Fired flight crew files complaint

In the summer of 2014, United Airlines, which has flights serving several Wisconsin cities, fired 13 flight attendants for refusing to fly on a trip from San Francisco to Hong Kong. The reason for the crew's refusal to fly was an ominous message and drawings that had been scrawled into the dirt on the plane that was to make the flight.

The message said, 'BYE BYE", and was accompanied by two faces. One of the faces depicted a person smiling, and the other had what could be described as a more leering, evil look. The attendants requested that the passengers deplane and that United assign personnel to perform a security inspection of the plane, but the company refused.

Former Baltimore detective files whistleblower lawsuit

A former Baltimore Police Department detective filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the department, the former police commissioner and his supervisor on Dec. 22 in federal court in Baltimore. The detective, who reported an assault on a drug suspect by two fellow officers to the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office in 2012, alleges that his fellow officers began a pattern of harassment, threats and retaliation against him when he agreed to testify against the two officers at their subsequent trial.

The detective testified against the officers, both of whom were found guilty. According to the detective, a drug suspect ran from police who witnessed him participating in a drug deal. When he fled, he ran into an apartment in which one of the officers' girlfriends lived. After the suspect was arrested and being transported to jail, one of the guilty officers allegedly turned the vehicle around, taking the man to where the other guilty officer was. Both then beat the man.

Wage payment laws in Wisconsin

Wisconsin employers are mandated by law to pay workers at statutorily defined intervals for work an employee has performed. When a person quits or is discharged from a job, the employer is also mandated to pay for the remaining unpaid hours within a set period as well. Except for logging and farm labor employers, companies must pay workers a minimum of once monthly. The pay to workers must cover all hours worked not more than 31 days in the past. Logging and farm labor employers must pay workers at a minimum of once quarterly.

If workers are absent when they were to be paid, the employer must pay them within six days. Certain employees are exempt, including those who are covered under a collective bargaining agreement that provides an alternate payment interval, school district employees who want to extend their salaries over 12 months instead of taking all of it during the school year, part time volunteer firemen and EMTs who agree to be paid less frequently and unclassified workers with the University of Wisconsin.

McDonald's charged for workers' rights violations

Wisconsin McDonald's employees may be interested to learn that on Dec. 19, the National Labor Relations Board filed complaints against the fast-food restaurant for violating its workers' rights. According to the complaint, some of the franchisees took actions against employees who attempted to improve their working conditions and wages.

The NLRB has reportedly filed 86 charges against the franchisees since 2012. The allegations included discriminatory discipline, discharges, reduction in the amount of work hours, threats, interrogations and restrictions on communicating with union representatives, among many others. A spokesperson for McDonald's stated that the charges were overreaching and dramatic. If a settlement cannot be agreed upon, litigation is set to begin in March.

Whistle-blowers awarded $170 million

People in Wisconsin may be interested in the outcome of the huge Bank of America and Countrywide whistle-blower case that was settled in August 2014. According to unsealed court documents, three individual whistle-blowers and one small New Jersey mortgage company were awarded $170 million as part of Bank of America's $17 billion settlement in relation to the case. The man who initially blew the case open, a former property appraisal company employee, will receive $56 million, while a former Countrywide executive will receive $58 million. A former Countrywide manager will receive $48 million, and the mortgage company will receive $8.5 million.

Bank of America and Countrywide together approved mortgages for people who were not credit worthy, then sold low quality loans to federal insurer mortgage backers Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The scheme was exposed after the former property appraisal company employee came to Bank of America following the bank's purchase of Countrywide. The man noticed the bank was routinely inflating appraisal values for properties in order to justify approving loans for people who were poor credit risks.

Comparing federal and state family and medical leave laws

Wisconsin employees may be interested in information about how the federal and state laws governing medical and family leave differ. Depending on the strength of each law in a particular area, different provisions could apply. Any time a Wisconsin state family and medical leave law provides greater protection than the federal law, an employer in Wisconsin must abide by the stronger state law. Employers who are covered by both state and federal lawmust continually comply with both. The requirement for employer coverage under Wisconsin law is that there must be at least 50 permanent employees over at least 6 months during the past year. The federal requirement is the same regarding the number of employees, but it must be for at least 20 weeks over the previous or current year.

Some areas where Wisconsin law gives stronger rights include the notification requirement for taking leave. Under federal law, the request must be made at least 30 days in advance, if practicable. Wisconsin only requires that the notice be reasonable under the circumstances, which could be less than 30 days. Federal law only allows intermittent leave when medically necessary, but Wisconsin allows greater latitude for taking an intermittent leave.

A new possible treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma

As those who are battling the disease in Wisconsin may already know, Hodgkin's lymphoma can be deemed incurable and potentially fatal for some people who are resistant to the available treatments. The disease strikes a large number of younger adults, potentially leaving them scrambling as they go through rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and other assorted antineoplastic therapeutic treatments.

As one of the most common cancers occurring in children and young adults in the United States, the disease is diagnosed in about 10,000 new cases every year. Although treatments may initially be successful, about 25 percent of patients will suffer a relapse. Some patients are simply resistant to the current treatments.

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