Wisconsin Labor Laws

March 19th 2024

This article covers:

What are Wisconsin Time Management Laws?

In the US, there are federal laws in place to manage the time spent by employees in the workplace, safeguarding their rights and guaranteeing fair pay for their efforts. These laws act as directives for employers, keeping them in check, and minimizing any forms of abuse or exploitation.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which dates back to 1938, is a critical federal law for time management, setting hourly wage rates and overtime pay, and requiring employers to keep an accurate record of their employees’ working hours. Overtime is pegged at 1.5 times the regular hourly rate for workers who exceed 40 hours a week. However, certain job categories, including executives, professionals, and administrative employees, are exempt from overtime pay depending on their job description and salary.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is another essential federal law that governs time management in the workplace, entitling eligible employees to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons, such as the birth or adoption of a child or caring for a family member with a serious health condition. This act also requires employers to maintain employees’ health benefits during their leave and restore them to their previous or equivalent positions upon their return to work.

Employers who contravene federal time management laws face severe legal ramifications, including fines, back pay, and damages. If workers feel that their employer has violated federal time management laws, they can file complaints with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division for investigation and legal action.

Overall, federal time management laws are instrumental in ensuring that workers are compensated fairly for their time and effort in the workplace, protecting them from abuse and exploitation by employers. The Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act are vital federal laws that govern time management and worker compensation, ensuring fair labor practices across various sectors, including non-profit, public, and private organizations.

Wisconsin Minimum Wage $7.25
Wisconsin Overtime Laws 1.5 times the rate of regular pay after working 40 hours in a workweek
($10.88 per hour for minimum wage workers)
Wisconsin Break Laws Breaks not required by law

What are the Hiring, Working & Termination Laws in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, the Fair Employment Law protects job applicants from discrimination during the hiring process. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants based on their:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Ancestry
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Arrest and conviction record
  • Military status
  • Use of lawful products outside of work hours
  • Genetic testing results

This means that employers cannot refuse to hire or treat applicants differently based on any of these characteristics.

Wisconsin, like most states in the US, practices the rule of “at-will employment” when it comes to terminating employment. Simply put, the employer or employee can terminate the employment at any time, for any reason, without having to give a specific explanation. Following termination, employers are required to pay the final paycheck of their employee(s) on the next payday. However, if the employer fails to do so, the employee can file a wage complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

What Are the Key Labor Laws in Wisconsin?

Now, we will discuss some key labor laws in Wisconsin that may not be related to the categories we have previously explored. Some of these regulations include:

  • “Ban-the-Box” Law – A number of American states have implemented hiring policies that aim to level the playing field for job applicants with criminal records. Wisconsin is one such state, having included the “Ban-the-box” law in its Fair Employment Law. This law seeks to make the hiring process more equitable by banning inquiries about an applicant’s criminal history during the initial application phase and postponing any background checks until later in the hiring process.
  • Cobra Laws – Wisconsin employees may have the option to keep their health insurance thanks to the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). This provision is intended for workers who may be going through a sudden life event, such as job loss, reduced work hours, divorce, a health issue preventing them from working, or a similarly stressful event involving a family member. Employers with at least 20 employees are covered under COBRA, and can provide up to 36 months of continued insurance. Meanwhile, all employees – regardless of the size of their company – can benefit from Wisconsin Mini-COBRA, which can provide 18 months of insurance protection and be used after federal COBRA coverage expires. Both plans have price requirements in place, capping costs at 102% of the original price.
  • OSHA Laws – Wisconsin has a workplace safety plan that’s been given the green light by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Wisconsin Department of Health Services created the plan, which lays out safe worker practices and employer responsibilities. The department also carries out on-site investigations to guarantee safety measures are being adhered to.
  • Cessation of Healthcare Benefits Law – If you’re an employer in Wisconsin with 50 or more employees and you’re thinking about stopping health care benefits for your current or retired workers, or their dependents, you need to give them a heads up 60 days in advance. This means sending out written notice to affected parties and putting up a poster that’s easy to see in the workplace. If you don’t do this and someone complains, you might have to pay them the premiums they would have paid during that period or reimburse them for any medical expenses they happened to rack up while the notice period elapsed.
  • One Day of Rest in Seven Law – In Wisconsin, it’s mandatory for all factory and retail employees to have at least one day off within a calendar week (Sunday to Saturday). However, the law doesn’t specify that the rest day must be given after every seven days of work. This implies that it’s permissible for employers to schedule work for 12 consecutive days over a two-week period, as long as the rest days fall on the first and last days of the designated two-week period.
  • Whistleblower Protection Laws – In Wisconsin, there are laws in place that protect employees who report any suspected or seen violation of state or federal laws. These whistleblower laws put a stop to employers who might want to retaliate, threaten or fire any employee for filing a complaint in good faith.
  • Background Check Laws – Employers in Wisconsin are required to adhere to the regulations outlined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when conducting background checks on potential employees. As part of this process, employers must give written notice to individuals whose background data they plan to collect. It’s worth noting that certain occupations like child care center staff, foster parents, school personnel, direct care providers, and specific public transit and packaging service agency personnel require criminal background checks.
  • Drug and Alcohol Testing Laws – To conduct workplace drug or alcohol testing, employers must have a written policy in place. According to Wisconsin law, employees cannot be compelled to pay for medical exams required by employer, including drug and alcohol testing.
  • Recordkeeping Laws – In the state of Wisconsin, it is mandatory for employers to maintain accurate and permanent employee records. In cases where employees are not paid on a time basis, their output also needs to be recorded. These records need to be accessible for inspection and retained for a minimum of 3 years. Employee records include:
    • Employee’s name
    • Employee’s address
    • Employee’s date of birth
    • Dates of hiring and termination
    • Time of beginning and end of each workday
    • Time of beginning and end of each meal period
    • Total number of hours worked per day and week
    • Rate of pay
    • Wages paid each pay period
    • Amount and reasons for any deductions

Wisconsin Payment Laws

To start off, let’s take a look at the laws that govern how much employees must be paid. We’ll delve into the details of minimum wage standards, including any exceptions that may apply.

What is the Minimum Payment in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin’s state minimum hourly wage applies to all private and public employees, including non-profit organizations. At present, the minimum wage in the state is $7.25, the same as the federal minimum wage. However, the Wisconsin state Minimum Wage law covers all employers, including those that are not covered by federal provisions. For tipped employees, who receive more than $30 in monthly tips, the minimum wage is $2.33 an hour, while those categorized as “opportunity employees” can be paid as low as $2.13. If their direct wages together with tips do not add up to the regular minimum wage, employers must make up the difference.

Wisconsin employers can apply for a license to pay a subminimum wage to employees with disabilities, with the wage rate determined by a government agency.

Finally, employees under 20 can be paid an “opportunity wage” of $5.90 during their first 90 days of employment.

What are the Exceptions for Minimum Payment in Wisconsin?

There are some exceptions to the minimum wage requirements in Wisconsin such as:

  • Agricultural workers can have a certain amount of money deducted from their wage for lodging and meals
  • Camp counselors working at seasonal recreational or educational camps have a special minimum wage rate based on whether their employer provides meals, lodging or both
  • Golf caddies have a minimum wage rate based on the number of holes they caddy
  • People employed casually and intermittently in the employer’s home
  • People with a physical or mental illness due to old age
  • Elementary or secondary school students performing work-like duties at their school

What is the Payment Due Date in Wisconsin?

Employers in Wisconsin are required to establish regular pay periods that last no longer than 31 days. Employers may choose to establish more frequent pay periods such as semimonthly or weekly if they wish. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as:

  • Logging employees and farm laborers must be paid at least quarterly
  • University of Wisconsin system employees who are unclassified are paid according to the internal systems of the University
  • Technicians must be paid at least annually at regular intervals

What are Wisconsin Overtime Laws?

In Wisconsin, any work that goes beyond 40 hours in a week is deemed as overtime under state laws. Moreover, a week here refers to a cycle of 7 days, irrespective of the time of day or weekdays. Employers must pay overtime hours at a rate of 1.5 times the regular pay. Nevertheless, employers have the freedom to schedule workers as they deem fit, thus making overtime work compulsory.

What are Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in Wisconsin?

According to Wisconsin law, there are certain professions that are not subject to overtime provisions. These include:

  • Salaried public employees earning $684 weekly ($35,568 annually)
  • Salaried executive and administrative employees who earn a minimum of $700 per week (or $36,400 annually)
  • Professionals earning at least $750 per week (or $39,000 annually)
  • Agricultural workers
  • Employees who provide domestic services in the employer’s home
  • Employees who work for federal agencies

Learn more in detail about Wisconsin Salaried Employees Laws and Wisconsin Overtime Laws.

What are Wisconsin Time Off/Break Laws?

In Wisconsin, there are no specific laws that mandate employers to give their workers meal breaks or rest periods while they are working. But if an employer decides to provide such breaks as a perk, they need to abide by a few rules. Namely, any rest period that lasts for up to 30 minutes must be paid, and it should be considered as work time. As for meal periods, they need to last longer than half an hour in order for them to be unpaid. Additionally, during the meal break, the employee must be allowed to leave the company premises and be free from any work obligations.

What are the Exceptions to Break Law in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, the labor laws have an exception made for minors, allowing them a 30-minute break after working for 6 hours straight. This exception is the only one made for breaks in Wisconsin labor laws.

What are Wisconsin Breastfeeding Laws?

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, Wisconsin employers are obligated to offer nursing mothers more break time for up to one year after delivery. To comply with this law, employers must allow adequate time and facilities for mothers to express their breast milk. Restrooms and toilet stalls are not considered acceptable for this purpose.

What are Wisconsin Leave Laws?

Wisconsin provides two types of leaves – required and non-required leaves.

What is Wisconsin Required Leave?

Here we can find the required leave types in Wisconsin:

  • Family and Medical Leave – The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees in Wisconsin the ability to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in the case of medical emergencies. Employees who qualify for family and medical leave may have experienced events such as childbirth, the addition of a new foster or adopted child, or a serious health issue that hinders their ability to work. Additionally, federal law requires that the employee has worked for the same employer for at least 12 months prior to the leave request and has clocked in at least 1,250 working hours during that time.
  • Jury Duty Leave – It is against the law for any employer in Wisconsin to intimidate, punish, or fire an employee who decides to fulfill their civic duty by serving on a jury. If they do, they may have to pay a fine of $200 and rehire the employee, along with providing all their lost wages.
  • Witness Leave – In Wisconsin, workers are given the right to “witness leave” which grants them the ability to attend court hearings while still receiving their entire salary. Employers cannot obstruct their employees from fulfilling their lawful duty of serving as a witness if they have received a subpoena. If an employer does attempt to prevent an employee from fulfilling their obligation, they may face a fine of $200 and may have to reimburse the worker for any lost wages.
  • Military Leave – Under the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), all uniformed service members are eligible for unpaid military leave, allowing them to leave for deployment and be reinstated to their previous position upon their return. However, there are certain conditions that must be met in order to be eligible, including providing notice to the employer of military service, serving for under 5 years, receiving a non-dishonorable or non-disqualifying military discharge, and returning to work in a timely manner. Those who meet these conditions are entitled to maintain their benefits and seniority level upon returning to work.
  • Voting Time Leave – Employers in Wisconsin must give their staff a leave of up to three straight hours for voting. But they have the following options: pick the duration of the leave, ask for notice beforehand, and not pay the employee during the break.
  • Emergency Response Leave (for State Employees) – If you’re a Wisconsin State employee and a certified American Red Cross member, you may be able to take emergency response leave to help out with disaster relief efforts. Naturally, the American Red Cross needs to make a written request that includes info on which employees are needed for the specific disaster.
  • Sick Leave (for State Employees) – In Wisconsin, public employees have the opportunity to accumulate sick leave at a rate of 5 hours per biweekly period, allowing for up to 130 hours per year. It’s worth noting that there is also no limit as to how much sick leave can be carried over from year to year.
  • Vacation and Holiday Leave (for State Employees) – State employees who work full-time receive vacation leave based on the number of years they have served and whether they are covered by the FLSA. The amount of vacation time accrued varies depending on these factors, with longer-serving employees earning more hours. For example, employees who have served for 5 years or less earn 104-120 hours, while those who have served for 25 years or more earn 216 hours.

What is Wisconsin Non-Required Leave?

  • Sick Leave (Private Employees) – Currently, private employers in Wisconsin are not legally obligated to offer sick leave to their employees unless there’s a pre-agreed contractual arrangement between the two parties.
  • Bereavement Leave – In Wisconsin, employers are not obligated to give bereavement leave to their employees, whether they are working in the private or public sector, unless it is stated in their contract. However, public employees have the option to use up to three days of their sick leave as a bereavement leave.
  • Vacation and Holiday Leave (Private Employees) – If there is no documented in the contract, workers in Wisconsin’s private sector are not eligible for time off for vacations or holidays.

The following are the official federal holidays observed in the US:

State Official Holidays Date
New Year’s Day 1 January
Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day Third Monday in January
Washington’s Birthday Third Monday in February
Memorial Day Last Monday in May
Independence Day 4 July
Labor Day First Monday in September
Columbus Day Second Monday in October
Election Day Every other year
Veterans Day 11 November
Thanksgiving Day Fourth Thursday in November
Christmas Day 25 December

Wisconsin Child Labor Laws

Here we can see the regulations in place for employing minors.

What are the Laws on Working Hours for Minors in Wisconsin?

Age Category Observations
12-15 years old Minors must possess a valid work permit before beginning work

Can work in agriculture, newspaper delivery, door-to-door sales, golf course caddying

Can work under parental or guardian supervision for any job

Must have a 30-minute break after 6 consecutive hours of work

Can work no more than 3 hours on a school day

Can work no more than 8 hours on a non-school day

Can work no more than 18 hours in a week while school is in session

Can work no more than 40 hours in a week while school is out of session

16-17 years old Must have 8 hours of rest between the end of one shift and the start of the next shift if employed after 11 p.m.

What are the Banned Jobs for Minors in Wisconsin?

In the state of Wisconsin, there are certain occupations that are off limits to employees under the age of 18 due to their unsafe nature. These include:

  • Working with hazardous materials like asbestos
  • Mining
  • Confined space work
  • Excavation
  • Using meat slicers
  • Working at establishments that serve alcohol
  • Operating bakery machines

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.