Know your rights regarding issues with your employment in Wisconsin
On behalf of Michael Fox
The good news is that the economy continues to improve and the nation’s unemployment rate is on a slow decline. The bad news is that, over the past few years, some court cases have made it harder for employees to bring class action employment discrimination cases against their employers. However, as a way around such complications, wronged employees are pursuing more wage and hour payment lawsuits. These types of cases often include:
- Minimum wage violations
- Failure to pay overtime
- Wage discrepancy
Gender pay discrepancy
Last month, President Obama discussed the wage gap between men and women in the U.S. Drawing attention to the issue has caused increased discussion in the media and, although women’s wages are closer to men’s than ever before, women still receive about 25 percent less on average. The size of the gender wage gap varies from state to state and from job to job.
Wisconsin legislators wrestled with a wage inequality bill at the end of 2013 but made no progress on the issue, which came to the forefront when the Governor repealed Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act in 2012. Illinois’ Equal Pay Act of 2003 sought to equalize pay between the genders and the Act allows underpaid employees to bring lawsuits against their employers upon meeting certain criteria.
Employment contract restrictions
While more workers are able to pursue claims for fair wage payments, they should also be on the lookout for employment contracts and policies that make it difficult for them to recover unpaid wages and move to new jobs. It is important for potential, current and departing employees to scrutinize agreements their employers demand they sign. Limiting clauses may be included in the following:
- Employee handbooks
- Non-compete agreements
- Severance packages
When employees face discrimination in the workplace or other mistreatment, they may find they have already signed away certain courses of action – like going to court instead of arbitration or filing class-action lawsuits – against their employers. Severance packages or termination agreements sometimes require departing employees to forfeit unpaid compensation – like unused vacation – or even the right to sue the employer for past misdeeds.
Know your rights
Laws protect employees in Wisconsin and Illinois from illegal and wrongful actions taken against them by their employers and potential employers. If you believe you have been a victim of unfair denial of family or medical leave, harassment, discrimination – based on age, gender, race or other protected statuses – or retaliation for raising a claim, consult an experienced employment law attorney. A lawyer knowledgeable about claims against employers can help.