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Milwaukee Employment Law Blog

Police officers fight back against employer retaliation

It happens in Milwaukee and it happens in cities and towns across the nation as well. When people blow the whistle on improper or illegal behavior in the workplace, they are often subjected to retaliation by supervisors and employers; retaliation that is expressly prohibited by law.

We read recently of two police officers in New Jersey who reached an agreement to settle a retaliation claim against the city of Linwood for $400,000. One of the two officers is the current chief of police for the city.

Drumming up support for paid medical leave in Wisconsin

Wisconsin lawmakers have before them a proposal to enable workers to take time away from their jobs for illness or emergency. The Wisconsin Family Leave Insurance bill would make it possible for employees to receive pay for up to 12 weeks for medical reasons or family emergencies.

"Right now, working families have to take unpaid time if they're having a baby or taking care of themselves or an aging parent," a proponent of the bill said. Workers are forced to use vacation time and sick time in order to be able to take care of both the medical situation and their everyday household bills.

EEOC sends message on inflexible medical leave policies

Companies that are determined to have violated provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act sometimes hope they can negotiate a settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, write a check and make their problems evaporate.

The EEOC has proven itself to be difficult for companies to be rid of. A couple of months ago, the hardware retailing giant Lowe's agreed to a $8.6 million settlement with the commission to resolve ADA violation claims. Lowe's was accused of firing employees whose medical leaves of absence exceeded the company's limit.

3 ways to protect yourself with the upcoming changes in overtime rules

Later this year, the rules that govern overtime pay in the U.S. will be changing. The change will raise the earning threshold for overtime eligibility, making more employees eligible to receive time-and-a-half pay for any hours worked over 40. To learn more about the details of this change, you can read this article from the U.S. Department of Labor.

What does this change mean for Wisconsin employees? Elements of your job could be adjusted in the coming months in a number of different ways. Some employers may give a raise in an effort to make you exempt from overtime pay; others will change time-tracking methods. Whatever happens, you want to be sure you are compensated fairly and properly during this transition.

New study reveals occupational dangers for men and women

When we think of Wisconsin farms, we often think of pastoral settings in which hard work makes for plentiful harvests. Yet a recent government study shows that among men, farmers and forestry workers have the highest rates of suicide.

Previous studies suggested that farmers' exposure to pesticides might contribute to depression, while the new research indicates social isolation, the threat of financial losses, a reluctance to get mental health help, and a lack of health services in rural America also contribute to the high suicide rate.

A day to honor whistleblowers

It is a rare sight these days to see members of the Democratic Party working with members of the Republican Party. While a tumultuous presidential election campaign is underway, a handful of Republicans and Democrats have found an issue on which they have some common ground: Whistleblowers.

In fact, Democratic senators Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Ron Wyden of Oregon have teamed up with his Republican counterpart from Iowa, Sen. Chuck Grassley, to propose that July 30 be formally designated as Whistleblower Appreciation Day.

Company's health questionnaire violated ADA, GINA

Wisconsin workers may be interested to learn that a federal court has ruled that a poultry feed company violated federal anti-discrimination laws by making job applicants disclose their personal health histories before they could be considered for employment. The consent judgment, which was entered into on June 8, settled a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a job applicant with disabilities.

According to the judgment, Grisham Farm Products Inc. acted in violation of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 and the Americans with Disabilities Act when it required prospective employees to complete a three-page health history. The company's actions violated the 2008 law by asking applicants to reveal whether they sought medical care within the past two years and whether their doctor had discussed or recommended follow-up diagnostic tests. Meanwhile, the company violated the ADA by asking applicants to reveal if they had any of 27 health conditions.

Updated FMLA poster released by Department of Labor

Most employers in Wisconsin and around the country with a staff of 50 or more are required to display a poster in the workplace that informs workers of their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  The Department of Labor updated this poster on April 16, 2016. While DOL rules allow employers to keep their current FMLA posters in place, the federal agency does require company policies to be updated to reflect the latest changes. The DOL also provides employers with a comprehensive guide to help them ensure that they are in compliance with the 1993 law.

Employers are required to hang the FMLA poster in a place where it can be seen by all covered employees, and it must also be displayed even if no workers are currently eligible for coverage under the law. Popular places to hang the poster include changing rooms, lunch rooms and cafeterias. Employees must also be notified of their rights under the FMLA, which is generally done by including the provisions of the law in employee handbooks or orientation materials. The poster is available from the DOL in both English and Spanish.

Woman's charges against WeWork found to have merit

Wisconsin residents may be interested in learning that the National Labor Relations Board found merit in the charges filed against WeWork by a plaintiff who was fired from her position at the office space sharing company. The employee also has a pending civil suit that she filed in California.

Reportedly, the woman worked for the company from March of 2015 until November of 2015. After noticing a number of violations of safety rules and wage and hour laws, the plaintiff started discussing the issues with her fellow employees. She was told to stop talking about the problems. Then, the company forced all employees to sign a number of documents, including an arbitration agreement which required employees to go through arbitration while waiving their rights to jury trials or class action suits. The woman refused to sign the documents, and she was fired.

Workers in some states are paid while taking family leave

Though employees in Wisconsin can take family leave after a childbirth or adoption, the leave is usually unpaid. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, full-time employees of employers subject to the federal law can take 12 weeks of unpaid time off per year for medical or family reasons. Now, some states are enacting their own family leave laws that allow employees to receive compensation for some of the wages they miss out on during a period of family leave.

Starting in 2018, employees in New York will be eligible to receive 50 percent of their average weekly wages during the first eight weeks of family leave. The law will be updated in 2021 to cover all 12 weeks of FMLA leave and 67 percent of an employee's average weekly income.

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