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General Employment Law FAQs



When and why should I consult with an employment law attorney?

Whenever you believe that your rights have been violated, whether or not you are “sure” that they were.  Even if it turns out that your rights were not violated, you can at least put your mind to rest.

Do not wait until it is too late.  Do not wait until you are one month from hearing to contact an attorney.  Do so as early as possible to ensure no mistakes are made and that your legal interests are represented to the greatest extent possible.

Regardless of where you are in the legal process, whether you have not yet filed a charge or complaint or have already received an initial determination, you should consult with an employment law attorney.



When and why should I hire an employment law attorney?

The answer to this question depends on where you are in the legal process; however, one thing holds true no matter what: do not wait until it is too late.  Do not wait until you are one month from hearing to contact an attorney. Do so as early as possible to ensure no mistakes are made and that your legal interests are represented to the greatest extent possible.

If you have not yet filed anything with the Equal Rights Division (ERD) or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it is never too early to hire an employment law attorney; however, you should do so only after your employment situation has been thoroughly analyzed and it has been determined that you have a viable claim. You should try to find an employment law attorney who is willing to work with you from the start, such as the employment law attorneys at Walcheske & Luzi, LLC.

If you have already filed a complaint with either the Equal Rights Division (ERD) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you should consult with an employment law attorney to review what has been filed and provide a thorough analysis of your claim(s), and potentially represent you going forward. An employment law attorney can guide you through the legal process and submit information on your behalf.

If you have already received a determination from the Equal Rights Division (ERD) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you should consult with an employment law attorney to review everything that has been filed and provide a thorough analysis of your claim(s), and potentially represent you going forward.  An employment law attorney can guide you through the legal process and use their knowledge and experience to increase your chances of success.



I have been handling my case myself and now my former employer wants to mediate or settle. Should I consult with or hire an attorney to represent me at the mediation or help negotiate the settlement?

You should definitely at least consult with an employment law attorney to have your claim(s) analyzed and to learn what your potential damages are. Many individuals in this position are unsure of what his/her case is actually “worth.” An employment law attorney can help you find the answer.



What does it mean to be employed “at-will” in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin is an “at-will” state. Under the at-will employment doctrine, an employer can terminate an employment relationship (aka fire an employee) for good cause, no cause, or even for reasons that are subjectively or morally “wrong,” so long as the termination does not violate any employment laws.  The at-will employment doctrine also means that employees are free to end the employment relationship (aka quit), whenever they so choose and for whatever reason(s) they so choose.



What is the difference between Wisconsin employment discrimination laws and federal discrimination laws?

In Wisconsin, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are prohibited by the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA).  Federal laws that, combined, provide similar protections are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA).

The WFEA and federal law are highly similar in most respects, with language that generally mirror each other.  The following forms of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are covered by both the WFEA and federal law:

  • Age Discrimination/Harassment (ADEA)
  • Creed/Religious Discrimination/Harassment (Title VII)
  • Disability Discrimination/Harassment (ADA)
  • Family & Medical Leave Interference or Retaliation (FMLA)
  • Genetic Information Discrimination (GINA)
  • Military Service Discrimination (USERRA)
  • Pregnancy Discrimination/Harassment (Title VII through the PDA)
  • National Origin/Ancestry (Title VII)
  • Race/Color Discrimination/Harassment (Title VII)
  • Retaliation for Opposing Discrimination (Title VII, ADA, ADEA, USERRA)
  • Retaliation for Participation (Title VII, ADA, ADEA, USERRA)
  • Sex Discrimination/Harassment (Title VII)

However, the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act provides greater coverage than Title VII.  The following forms of discrimination and harassment are prohibited by the WFEA, but are not prohibited at the federal level:

The largest substantive difference between Wisconsin employment law and federal employment law concerns family and medical leave.  To see how the eligibility requirements and entitlements differ at the federal and state level, see the difference between FMLA and WFMLA.



What are my employee rights?

In Wisconsin, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are prohibited by the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA). Federal laws that, combined, provide similar protections are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA).

Employees also have certain rights as it pertains to wage, hour, and commissions issues. In Wisconsin, State Statutes outline employee rights in these respects, whereas on the federal level, many laws are in place that cover wage, hour, and commission issues, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Equal Pay Act (EPA), and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. In addition, disparities in pay may be covered under anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).



When is it okay to quit my job?

Before you do anything, contact an employment law attorney. An employment law attorney can analyze your situation, help you through it, and advise you of your options so that you do not hastily do something you may later regret.

This is particular true if you have any indication that you may be the victim of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace.  In such scenarios, the law generally expects you to grin and bear it until the employer takes a drastic adverse action, such as terminating your employment.  For this reason, it usually will not benefit your potential claim(s) to quit, while it may benefit you personally and emotionally.

Even if you have absolutely no reason to believe that you are being subjected to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, you should consult with an employment law attorney before quitting.



What can I get out of an employment discrimination case, how much is my employment discrimination case worth?

There is no easy answer to this question, as a case’s “worth” is literally a case-by-case analysis.  No two people’s damages are exactly the same.

That said, damages that an individual is generally entitled to are back pay (lost wages), reinstatement (reemployment if you lost your job), and attorney fees and costs.  At the federal level, an individual can also attempt to obtain compensatory damages (pain and suffering) and punitive damages (damages assessed against the employer as a punishment), although individuals are not entitled to such damages.

If you have been handling a case by yourself and an employer has contacted you to schedule a mediation or discuss settlement, you should heavily consider, and we would recommend, speaking with an employment law attorney.



What do I do if I my unemployment claim was denied?

If your unemployment claim was denied and you disagree with that denial, your first step is to file an appeal.  Immediately after filing your appeal, contact an employment law attorney and schedule a consultation to discuss the facts and circumstances leading up to your loss of employment. Remember that after you file an appeal, your case will be set for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.