Impacts of Wisconsin’s local employment law preemption bill
On March 22, the Wisconsin State Assembly passed a bill to preempt local governments from enacting and enforcing ordinances related to a multitude of employment matters. Since the bill has now passed both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature, it is expected that Governor Walker will sign it into law. The bill, AB 748, would standardize employment law across the state by prohibiting local governmental units from enacting their own employment law regulations.
A similar Wisconsin law that restricts local governmental units from enacting their own minimum wage regulations was signed by Governor Doyle several years ago. That law contained exemptions for employees of the local governmental unit and employees who perform work under a contract for services to the governmental unit. This bill will eliminate those exemptions and preempt local regulation of many other kinds of employment laws.
The many employer groups and trade associations that support the bill believe that employment matters are of statewide concern and therefore require uniform standards at the state level.
Once enacted, the bill would proactively prevent some trends seen in other states from hitting Wisconsin. In California, for example, dozens of municipalities have recently enacted their own paid-leave laws, shift-scheduling laws, or laws regulating the information collected from job applicants. Notably, the bill would impact some current county and municipal level ordinances that provide greater benefits and/or protection to workers than under Wisconsin state law.
Under the law, Wisconsin state law would preempt the following employment issues, and a local ordinance would be unenforceable:
- Requirements for employee shift scheduling, hours of work, and overtime;
- Regulation of employment benefits including retirement, profit sharing, insurance, or leave benefits;
- Regulations on requesting salary history of prospective employees;
- Requirements concerning occupational licensing more stringent than state law;
- Regulations regarding wage claims or collections; and
- Requirements regarding the use of labor peace agreements and employee pay scales for work on municipal projects.
Of note, the initial version of the bill would have also prohibited municipalities from enacting or enforcing employment discrimination ordinances that provide greater protection than that provided by state law. A late amendment to the bill, however, removed that provision so Wisconsin municipalities have retained the authority to pass or enforce such laws. This means, for example, that the unique employment discrimination prohibitions in the city of Madison’s equal employment ordinance remain in full force and effect.
Mike Gotzler is a founding partner of Clark & Gotzler, Attorneys at Law. His practice includes employment defense litigation, ADA/FMLA employee leave and accommodation issues, wage and hour compliance, non-compete agreements, independent contractor issues, multistate compliance, labor relations and NLRB proceedings, and preventive HR audits and training.
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