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Milwaukee Wisconsin Legal Blog

Wisconsin man awarded $5.2 million for workplace discrimination

A Wisconsin man who accused his employer of violating federal law was recently awarded $5.2 million. He pursued a workplace discrimination suit following a series of discriminatory behaviors by a Walmart store manager. Those behaviors included an unfounded suspension, additional barriers to accommodations and termination from the job that the victim had held for nearly two decades.

The victim was a cart pusher at the same Walmart for 16 years, during which time he had special accommodations for a developmental disability and visual impairment as well as being deaf. The problems began when a new manager took over the store. Within a month, he suspended the man and refused to provide further reasonable accommodations. The employee could only return to work if he resubmitted all of his medical paperwork.

Supreme Court considering workplace discrimination against LGBTQs

Federal law protects several specific groups from discrimination at work. While most people in Wisconsin know that it is illegal to discriminate against a worker for his or her religion or gender, two current U.S. Supreme Court cases could add another protected group -- sexual orientation. Depending on the outcome, members of the LGBTQ community could possibly pursue workplace discrimination claims in the future.

A former county government worker from Georgia and a former skydiving instructor are part of the first case. Both claim that they were fired after their employers learned of their sexual orientations. The second case involves a transgender woman who says she was fired from her position as the director of a funeral home.

Are you considering filing a wrongful termination claim?

If you believe you are a victim of wrongful termination, filing a claim against your employer may be your next step.

However, you have probably never done this and may feel ill-equipped to handle the matter properly. Here are five tips to help you manage the task of filing a wrongful termination claim.

Is your employer making accommodations for your disability?

Perhaps you are just beginning a new job. When you applied, you and the recruiter discussed your disability and the need for the employer to make some accommodations for you.

Now that you are officially employed, how is your need for “reasonable accommodation” going? Has your new employer complied with your request?

Restaurant fined for employment law violations

Wisconsin employers are responsible for knowing and complying with the laws regarding wages, child labor and more. Unfortunately, some employers prioritize their own bottom lines over the health and safety of their workers, violating employment law in the process. An out-of-state restaurant was recently cited for these types of violations and was ordered to pay $55,288  civil penalties.

According the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, the restaurant violated multiple child labor provisions. In its state of operation, 14 is the minimum age for employment, yet it employed a 13-year-old child who suffered severe, third-degree burns at work. He had emptied hot oil from a deep fryer and was disposing of it when he tripped. Not only was the boy too young to employ, but the Fair Labor Standards Act -- the FLSA -- does not permit minors to clean fryers if the oil is 100 degrees or higher.

Understanding unreasonable refusal to rehire

Despite an employer's best efforts to provide employees with a safe working environment, many workplace injuries occur every year around Wisconsin. In 2019, the state announced it would cut back funds for workers' compensation. This is partially due to the decreased total number of claims in recent years.

Employees have a right to workers' comp if they become injured from workplace activities. However, many business owners try to get out of paying for these claims by terminating a worker's employment shortly after an injury. An individual may have to leave to recover from an injury and upon returning, the boss says the worker has lost their job due to an unrelated incident. This violates Wisconsin's unreasonable refusal to rehire laws. All workers must be aware of their rights. 

Forced arbitration hurts victims of workplace discrimination

Workers usually have to sign some type of new-hire paperwork or contract when starting new jobs. These can be short or long documents that cover a wide range of information relevant to specific positions or companies. However, there is one thing that many of these contracts have in common -- forced arbitration clauses for those claiming workplace discrimination, sexual harassment and more. A recently passed bill could change this practice. 

Many companies in Wisconsin require their employees to address legal disputes during private arbitration that has very little government oversight. Forced arbitration makes it more difficult -- but not impossible -- for workers to seek justice in the face of discrimination or harassment. Private arbitration also typically yields much less financial compensation than if a victim were to sue his or her employer in court.

Small business law: Are you ready to hire seasonal workers?

As the 2019 holiday season rapidly approaches, small business owners in Wisconsin may be ready to hire seasonal help. Unlike regular employees, these workers are expected to work only briefly before being let go. However, that does not mean an employer can treat the seasonal hiring process the same as his or her regular process. Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding small business law and hiring seasonal workers.

When advertising for upcoming seasonal positions, it is generally a good idea to note that an opening is for seasonal work and not something more permanent. Otherwise, applicants who are looking for permanent positions may end up applying. Job listings for seasonal workers should also include duties, physical demands, work schedule, compensation and any necessary or preferred previous experience.

Who received the largest fine under the False Claims Act?

To date, the largest civil fine ever assessed in one case under the Federal False Claims Act was $2 billion. The recipient was GlaxoSmithKline LLC. Criminal penalties added another $1 billion.

This is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. How did GSK run afoul of the law?

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