Wisconsin Employment Law

A waitress working in a Milwaukee restaurant struggles to get by because she's required to submit all of her tips into a tip pool and her share doesn't meet the minimum wage requirements. When she complains to her employer that she feels like her coworkers may be getting larger shares because they are Chinese and she's not, her employer increases her share but cuts her hours shorter. Now she's stuck making the same amount as before.

This is an example of several different employment law violations that can happen to anyone in Wisconsin. In this situation and similar ones, the waitress may have a strong case but may also feel powerless against her employer, who could fire her for speaking out against their illegal acts. However, Wisconsin's employment laws protect and empower workers against dishonest employers.

Employment law covers a multitude of topics, including worker's compensation, workplace discrimination, vacation and overtime, unemployment benefits and more. Your employment dispute is often affected by federal, state and local laws simultaneously. Wisconsin employment law attorneys are experienced with the delicacy and complexity of work-related cases and can help protect your rights.

Common Wisconsin Employment Law Issues

Wisconsin is an at-will employment state, meaning that employers and employees have the right to terminate a work relationship for any or no reason at any time. However, there are situations in which an employer's decision to terminate their employee is illegal.

Wrongful termination is a common employment law issue in Wisconsin. While workplace discrimination is a common factor in wrongful termination cases, a wrongful termination can occur for a number of illegal factors, including:

  • When an employer retaliates against an employee for reporting, testifying to, or refusing to participate in illegal workplace activities.
  • When an employer's termination decision breaches the terms of a written employment contract. (A contract may render an employee's at-will status obsolete.)
  • When an employer refuses to acknowledge an employee's wage and hour rights.
  • When an employer doesn't allow an employee to return to work after recovering from work-related injuries or from maternity leave.

Any termination decision made by the employer in which the reason for termination violates Wisconsin employment laws or a written contract is considered a wrongful termination.

Wisconsin Minimum Wage

Wisconsin's minimum wage as of January 2017 still matches the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour. The state's minimum wage has little chance of increasing in the near future under the Republican majority of Wisconsin's legislative bodies.

Wisconsin Laws for Tipped Employees

Waiters/waitresses, concierges and other tipped service employees receive their wages under a different set of rules than other non-tipped employees in Wisconsin. Where a non-tipped employee is entitled to a minimum wage of $7.25/hour, a tipped employee receives a cash minimum wage of $2.33/hour from their employer which must then be supplemented by $4.92/hour in tips to meet the state minimum wage requirement.

Tipped employees younger than 20 years of age also receive their wages under a different set of rules within the first 90 days of employment. Newly hired young employees are called opportunity employees in Wisconsin. Their employer must pay a cash minimum wage of $2.13/hour. The opportunity employee then must earn $3.77/hour in tips to meet the opportunity minimum wage of $5.90/hour.

Get Help from a Wisconsin Employment Attorney

If you or a loved one is involved in an employment law dispute, it's in your best interests to consult with an attorney. Employment law is a broad, complicated legal area with federal and state laws at play. An experienced Wisconsin employment law attorney can help protect your legal rights.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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