The Great Lake state of Wisconsin boasts a population of about 5.6 million people and an annual GDP equal of about $211 billion. The state’s economy supports numerous agricultural ventures (most famously, dairy farming), as well as education, manufacturing, and healthcare industries, all of which contribute to Wisconsin’s workforce.
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development is in charge of handing all of the state’s employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation cases. The DWD operates under the jurisdiction of the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act. Per state law, harassment and discrimination is illegal in the arenas of the workplace, housing, and public accommodations.
The DWD also investigates and enforces claims pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act and maintains an Equal Rights Division to protect the rights of Wisconsin citizens, to train workers and employers to comply with Civil Rights Laws, and to issue permits and hold hearings on relevant matters. The Equal Rights division is further subdivided into three parts:
- Office of Support Services
- Bureau of Civil Rights
- Bureau of Labor Standards
The Bureau of Civil Rights primarily processes mediations, files and manages discrimination claims, and oversees individual cases to resolution. The Bureau of Labor Standards tackles wage and hour disputes, FMLA violations, and unsafe work environment claims.
Many times over the past two decades, Wisconsin has found itself at the epicenter over battles about affirmative action. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, for instance, supports a progressive affirmative action program. But some students, administrators, and legal experts have argued that affirmative action violates the state’s antidiscrimination laws by institutionalizing “reverse” discrimination.
The politics and legal arguments behind these claims can be quite complicated, as can the relevant jurisdictional logistics. (E.g. does a case fall under the auspices of State or Federal Law?) Cases originating in the workplace may include any of the following circumstances:
- Wage and hour violations. An employer that does not pay you for the hours that you've worked, fraudulently manipulates payroll records, or refuses to provide overtime compensation (if you’re nonexempt) can be charged with hour and wage violations. Report the employer immediately to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
- Discriminatory language, behavior, and treatment. Sexually explicit comments, hostile behavior, name-calling, discrimination and harassment at the workplace are never acceptable. Contrary to popular opinion, both women and men can be targets of sexual harassment, discrimination, or violent behavior.
- Retaliation against an employee for filing a complaint. Some employees are so afraid of employer retaliation (e.g. demotion, firing, poor treatment at the office, etc.) that they opt to stay silent even in the face of manifestly unfair or illegal employer behavior. Unfortunately, if no one speaks up, the perpetrating employer will not face any repercussions, and illegal practices will only continue. Retaliation is illegal, and employers who engage in it can be punished by federal and state law.
Employment attorneys can help victims of workplace wage violations, discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. Don’t allow your employer to mistreat you and harm or intimidate your coworkers; reach out and ask for help. Contact a local employment attorney today.