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Milwaukee Employment Law Blog

What breaks are Wisconsin employees guaranteed?

When you are on the clock for extended periods of time in the Wisconsin workplace, having a set time to sit, relax and enjoy a meal can be a boon. Though there are some federal laws regarding breaks, found under the Fair Labor Standards Act, but for the most part this area is left to the state. There are specific regulations from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development that ensure employees’ rights in this regard. These regulations are age-specific.

If you are under 18 years of age and are in the workforce, your employer is required to provide at least one half-hour break for every six hours you are on the clock. This break is to be unpaid and duty free. Any other breaks offered to you are done so at the discretion of your employer and are not required by state law.

How does the ADA protect Wisconsin employees?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons with a disability have the right to work, just like any other American citizen. The law protects these individuals from being discriminated against in the workplace, both while they are working and before they even get hired. In addition, workers whose relatives are disabled may also be covered by the ADA.

As mentioned before, protection from the ADA begins before your first day on the job. Employers are not legally allowed to not hire you just because of your disability. If they do hire you, reasonable accommodations must be made to make sure you can work. This can be anything from allowing your service animal to work with you, to providing a ramp at the entrance if you need one. The exception is if making reasonable accommodations presents undue hardship to the employer.

SSDI Funds Could Run Out by Next Year

Social Security Disability Insurance, benefits are for those who have worked a job and paid enough taxes to Social Security in order to be eligible for benefits. Additionally, those receiving SSDI are no longer able to work, due to a medical condition that meets the standard definition of disability. These benefits usually last until the person in question is able to go back to work. However, new reports show that the funds for these benefits may be running out.

Trustees have stated that the SSDI reserves have dropped from $90.4 billion to $60.2 billion within only one year. If this the reserve continues to decrease at this rate, the funds will be at zero by the end of 2016.

Qualifying for the Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act was designed to provide qualified employees with a way to take unpaid leave, for family or medical reasons, without the fear that they would lose their job. Though this is a fantastic program that benefits many workers in Wisconsin, it is important to learn the facts about the FMLA and discover if you are eligible to take part in this program if you were to find yourself in need.

Employers who are covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act are required to meet specific criteria. This includes meeting one of the following conditions: being a private sector employer with greater than 50 employees who work a minimum of 20 weeks per calendar year, any public agency on the local, state or federal level, regardless of the number of employees and any public or private elementary or secondary school, despite the number of employees. 

Who is covered by federal whistle-blower laws?

A whistle-blower is defined as any individual that brings to light violations or illicit activity performed by an employer or organization. Whistle-blowers across the U.S. and Wisconsin are often subjected to scrutiny and retaliation after bringing their allegations to officials, which may lead the individual or group to seek legal advice. After reporting violations of federal regulations, it is important to know your rights and if you are protected under government whistle-blower laws.

Seventeen statutes outline provisions created by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration are designed to protect whistle-blowers. These cover a wide variety of workers across nearly every industry. In addition to these statutes, there are multiple other acts, including the Whistle-blower Protection Act, and executive orders that are outlined in legislation presented under other agencies outside of OSHA. 

Sorting through the facts to get to truth of whistleblower claim

Reports of an employee becoming a whistleblower without suffering adverse consequences have become much more common with the enactment of state and federal laws, such as the Whistleblower Protection Act, to protect them. Occasionally, though, the facts of a given situation can create a confusing set of circumstances in which an individual fired for creating a danger to public health might be a legitimate whistleblower.

The firing of a Wisconsin paramedic for tampering with narcotic drugs kept on his ambulance might at first appear to be a clear case of local officials identifying a danger to public health and responding to it in an appropriate manner. Facts uncovered by a local media outlet raise questions as to the true motives behind the firing.

Protecting you, and the government, from unscrupulous companies

“Other people’s money.” The phrase carries a subtle meaning, conveying the impression of some that when – especially in situations when those “other people” are the taxpayers of Wisconsin – it is acceptable to be wasteful or even corrupt in handling that money. The federal government deals with budgets and projects that amount to millions and billions of dollars, after all; given such massive scale, some companies that do business with the government cannot resist the temptation to engage in fiscal carelessness or even chicanery.

Fraud, waste and abuse of state and federal government funds hurts everyone. And if you see it happening in the company where you work, you may be torn between the desire to do something about it, and the concern that if you do your employer will make you wish you hadn’t. That is the reason why laws such as the False Claims Act exist: in part to encourage you to “say something” when you “see something,” and also to insulate you from retaliation when you do the right thing by flagging instances of fraud, waste and abuse of government funds in the company where you work.

Fewer disabled Americans employed now than before passage of ADA

It has been a quarter of a century since the Americans with Abilities Act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. One of the primary goals of the ADA was to improve employment opportunities for those considered to be disabled under the Act by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations.

Specifically, the ADA prohibits employers (private and government) with 15 or more employees from discriminating against individuals who are otherwise qualified for a position by making a reasonable accommodation for their employment. The alleged discrimination can take many forms: in the application process, hiring and firing, compensation, training, promotions and advancements, and even perks and benefits of employment. 

Wisconsin company leads whistle-blower claim vs. AT&T

Not every claim under the U.S. False Claims Act (FCA) involves an employee accusing his or her employer of illegal practices that defraud the government. Sometimes a contractor can also act in the capacity of a whistle-blower.

A recent case involving a Wisconsin-based consultant provides an example of how this can work. The consultant works with school districts to assist them with claims that they are being overcharged for telecommunications services. Initially he filed a claim in state against Wisconsin Bell, but later on added an additional lawsuit against its parent company AT&T under the federal FCA. Both whistle-blower lawsuits have overcome legal challenges, including a claim by AT&T that it should not be subject to a lawsuit when its subsidiary is also being sued.

Social security disability insurance faces steep cuts

Millions of people across Wisconsin and the rest of the US 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. 

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