It’s important to stay up to date on all of the employment laws in your state so that you can maintain compliance in your business. We did some of the hard work for you and put some of the most important Wisconsin statutes in one place so you can either learn them for the first time or give yourself a refresher. 

However, remember that our summary is not qualified legal advice, laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. 

It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. Consult with a qualified lawyer and/or your local government agencies if you have questions or concerns. 

Here are a few Wisconsin labor laws every small business owner should know.

Resources

First, here are a few helpful links and resources for you to bookmark and refer back to:

Leave

  • Sick Days: Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid sick leave but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one. 
  • Medical Leave: The Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides unpaid leave for an employee’s serious health condition, the serious health condition of a parent, child or spouse, or for the birth or adoption of a child. A covered employer has at least 50 permanent employees during at least 6 of the last 12 months. Covered employees have worked for the employer for at least 52 consecutive weeks and for at least 1000 hours in the preceding 52 week period.
  • Vacation Leave: Employers are not required to provide vacation leave but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one. 
    • If there is a policy in place that says vacation time will be paid out upon separation of employment, it must be followed.  
    • Employers may establish a policy disqualifying employees from receiving payment for accrued vacation upon separation from employment if they fail to comply with certain requirements. 
    • Employers may cap the amount of vacation leave an employee may accrue. 
    • Employers can implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy that requires employees to use their vacation time by a set date, as long as employees have been informed in writing. 
  • Jury Duty: Employers are not required to provide paid leave for time spent responding to a jury summons or serving on a jury, but employers must grant leave of absence without loss of time in service for the period of jury service.
    • Employers may not penalize or terminate employees for responding to a jury summons. 
  • Holiday Leave: Private employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid time off for holidays. 
  • Voting Leave: If an employee requests to take leave prior to the day of the vote or election, and employer must provide 3 hours of time off to vote. It does not have to be paid. 
  • Bereavement Leave: Employees are not required to provide bereavement leave but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one. 

Final Paycheck

  • If an employee quits or is terminated, they must be paid all final wages by the next regularly scheduled payday. 
  • If an employee is separated from the payroll of their employer because the employer merged, liquidated or disposed of the business, the employer (or the successors) must pay all due wages at the usual place of payment within 24 hours of separation. 

Minimum Wage

The current minimum wage in Wisconsin is $7.25. 

Tipped Wages

  • The minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.33, except for trainees, who may be paid $2.13.
  • Employers are not allowed to require employees to participate in tip pooling or sharing arrangements. Employees may voluntarily agree to participate and rely on the employer to redistribute tips. 

Child Labor

  • Minors under the age of 16 (14 and 15) are subject to the following time restrictions:
    • After Labor Day through May 31:
      • A maximum of 8 hours on non-school days and 3 hours on school days. 
      • A maximum of 18 hours during school weeks and 40 hours during non-school weeks. 
      • Between the hours of 7 a.m and 7 p.m. 
    • June 1 through Labor Day 
      • A maximum of hours on non-school days and 3 hours on school days. 
      • A maximum of 40 hours a week during non-school weeks and 18 hours during school weeks. 
      • Between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. 
  • Minors under the age of 18 do not have any time restrictions other than that they may not work during school hours. 
  • All minors must be given a 30-minute, duty-free meal period when they work more than 6 consecutive hours. 
  • Minors 16 and 17 years of age must have 8 hours of rest between shifts if they are employed after 8 p.m. 

Meal and Rest Breaks, Overtime

  • Aside from the previously mentioned break mandated for minor employees, employers are not required to provide breaks or meal periods to adult employees, although it is recommended. 
  • If a break is provided that lasts less than 30 minutes, it must be paid. 
  • Employers are required to pay employees an overtime rate of 1 ½ time their regular pay when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek, unless otherwise exempt. 

Employment Discrimination

  • The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on age (over 40), arrest record, color, conviction record, creed/religion, disability, gender, genetic testing, honesty testing, marital status, military service , national origin, ancestry and ethnicity, pregnancy, race, sexual orientation, or use or nonuse of lawful products. 
  • The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act also makes it unlawful for an employer to in any way discriminate against an employee for declining to attend a meeting or participate in any communication about religious or political matters.
  • Employees who wish to file a discrimination claim have 300 days from the act triggering the claim to do so. 
  • Click here to read our blog on what acceptable and unacceptable questions to ask during an interview.       

Termination

Wisconsin is an employment-at-will state, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time, provided that the reason is not discriminatory and that the employer is not retaliating against the employee for a rightful action. 

Shift Scheduling

Employers with factories or mercantile establishments must provide employees with at least 1 period of 24 hours of rest every week unless an employee “states in writing that he or she voluntarily chooses to work without at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in 7 consecutive days.”

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