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Milwaukee Wisconsin Legal Blog

Employment law: Was I supposed to get overtime pay?

Workers in Wisconsin usually want to do a good job at work, put in the required hours -- or more -- and receive fair compensation for their efforts. Sadly, some employers try to get out of paying workers what they deserve. If you are not sure whether your boss violated employment law regarding your compensation, keep some of the following in mind.

Not every worker automatically receives overtime pay. If you are classified as an independent contractor or an exempt employee, your boss does not have to provide overtime pay when you work more than 40 hours in a single week. Unfortunately, some employers purposely misclassify workers to avoid paying overtime.

Is whistleblowing protected by law?

Companies and businesses must never retaliate against employees who acted as whistleblowers. Even if a person's complaints feel untrue and a business is eager to set the record straight, there are very specific protections for whistleblowing. Wisconsin whistleblowers who were wrongfully fired or otherwise retaliated against may choose to bring lawsuits against their employers, both current and former.

While the term might seem to pop up in certain news reports -- at least somewhat frequently, not many people fully understand the definition of a whistleblower. Broadly speaking, the term applies to workers who make complaints regarding employer misconduct, including safety code violations, financial mismanagement, shareholder fraud and more. A whistleblower only has to make internal complaints to be labeled as such, although some choose to provide information to outside investigators as well.

Why your employer should have an employee wellness program

Workplace wellness programs are growing in popularity. Companies of all sizes, from start-ups to industry giants, are offering health programs for their workers. These programs can bring numerous benefits to employees and employers.

If your employer does not offer such a program, you may be missing out on some key benefits. Here are some advantages of workplaces that implement wellness programs. 

What to do when your job causes anxiety

Work can be incredibly stressful. Your job may involve meeting strict deadlines, balancing your work and personal life, meeting high expectations and dealing with politics and gossip. A stressful work environment can even cause or contribute to an anxiety disorder.

According to WebMD, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Excessive or unrealistic worries
  • Jitteriness
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Fatigue

Small business law: Do you understand worker privacy?

Running a business requires a certain level of knowledge regarding all facets of daily operations. It is natural for entrepreneurs to have a hand in everything and to know what is going on, especially among workers. However, some business owners feel worried that they may accidentally take things a step or so too far. While worker privacy is protected by small business law, Wisconsin employers are also afforded a certain level of protection when monitoring employees.

Depending on the needs of a business, employees might spend a large portion of their working hours online. Activities made on a business computer system are usually not protected under personal privacy laws, and employers generally have the right to monitor computer activity as they see fit. Emails sent from company computer systems are also generally considered company property, and employers can monitor and retain copies of emails.

Disabled employees still face workplace discrimination

Living with a disability is not easy, but many people still work and lead productive. However, an employee with a disability might need accommodation in the workplace. Not all Wisconsin employers are willing to provide those accommodations, even when they are required to do so by law. Experiencing workplace discrimination because of a disability can be disheartening, so it is important for these individuals to understand their rights.

Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act -- the ADA -- in 1990. According to the ADA, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. The goal of the ADA was to help individuals with disabilities acquire and maintain gainful employment, and to also minimize discrimination against these workers. While there has certainly been improvement, the imprecise wording regarding accommodations is problematic.

When jokes at the office cross a line

Anyone who wants to be the office comedian needs to recognize when good taste turns ugly. A University of Wisconsin-Whitewater student-instructor discovered this in 2017 when he tweeted a racially-insensitive picture. Many students at the university have stated that such images can feel traumatizing to victims. 

Making jokes around the office can be a good way to build rapport. However, these jokes should be good, clean fun. No one at the office should be the butt of the joke, but unfortunately, many workers fail to see that. Their jokes cross the line into outright discrimination, and all people need to know where that line is. 

Workplace discrimination can lead to wrongful termination

Losing a job is a difficult experience, especially if that individual relied on his or her paycheck as a primary source of income. While being laid off or fired is sometimes just a part of the working world, these actions are not always justified. In some cases, workplace discrimination could play a significant role in an employer's decision to terminate a person's employment.

If an individual did not have a contract and was employed in an "at-will" position, then his or her boss did not need to justify the firing. The exception to this is if retaliation or discrimination were the root cause of the decision to fire that person. Wisconsin employers cannot fire a worker because of his or her national origin, race, religion, sex, age or disability.

Workplace discrimination persists despite impact on employers

Employees should be hired, compensated and promoted according to their qualifications and workplace performance. Unfortunately, many Wisconsin employers ignore candidates' qualifications, shutting out certain workers. Despite the reality that workplace discrimination based on gender and age has a negative effect on both revenue and reputation, it is still a serious problem.

A 2017 study showed that there is a 30% difference in callback rates between men aged 29 to 31 years old and those between the ages of 64 and 66. Women in the same age groups have a 36% gap in callbacks after interviews. According to a study from the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration, age is not just a problem in hiring. The study involved approximately 2,000 adults aged 50 or older, and half reported being forced out of their jobs. Only 10% of those individuals were able to find new employment with the same paygrade.

Is your accent causing problems at work?

The United States is the great melting pot, comprised of talented individuals from around the globe. If you have landed your dream job, though, you may worry about your accent. After all, you may not sound anything like the rest of your coworkers or managers. 

English may not be your first language. Still, you may have worked hard to learn how to communicate fluently in English. Dropping your accent, though, likely presents a much larger problem. If your employer uses your accent as a reason to treat you differently in the workplace, you may be the subject of discrimination. 

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