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A look at differences between Wisconsin and federal employment law

No one has to be told what the bite in the air means: it is time to get your car and home ready for another cold Wisconsin winter. In order for Badger State residents to survive winter comfortably, it’s important to understand the differences between our winters and those in sunnier climes.

It’s just as important for employers to understand the sometimes significant differences between Wisconsin employment law and federal employment law.

A recent article in Milwaukee’s BizTimes highlighted some of those distinctions. The U.S. Supreme Court has several pending cases concerning the rights of LGBT workers. While no one knows what the court will decide in those cases, we in Wisconsin have long prohibited workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA).

The WFEA also bans discrimination on the basis of marital status, meaning that employers cannot favor job applicants who are single over those who are married.

The landmark WFEA also prohibits discrimination against employees over the “use or nonuse of lawful products off the employers’ premises during nonworking hours.” Originally designed to prevent companies from discriminating against workers who consume alcohol on their own time, it has also been cited to stop employer discrimination against smokers (though businesses can maintain smoke-free workplaces).

Another important area in which Wisconsin employment law differs in some respects from federal law is in protections against disability discrimination. Our WFEA applies to virtually all public and private employers, regardless of the number of employees, while the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to employers with 15 or more workers. Wisconsin law also obligates businesses to consider more reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities than federal law requires.

If your Wisconsin employer has discriminated against you on the basis of disability, marital status or sexual orientation, contact the Milwaukee law office of Alan C. Olson and Associates to talk over your legal options.

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Alan C. Olson & Associates | 2880 S Moorland Rd | New Berlin, WI 53151
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