The Wisconsin smoking ban, which prohibits smoking in virtually every workplace, goes into effect on July 5, 2010. The 2009 Wisconsin Act 12 is more restrictive than many other state smoking bans. It requires business owners to enforce the non-smoking law, and provides greater penalties for business owners who fail to do so.
The Wisconsin non-smoking law prohibits smoking indoors in public places, including workplaces with two or more walls. This prohibits smoking in warehouses, auto shops, taverns, restaurants, sports arenas, theaters, private clubs and stores. Smoking is banned in all state and local government offices, all schools, and prisons. The law also bans smoking on public transportation and even in bus shelters.
Restaurants and bars may permit smoking in a designated outdoor area such as a patio or porch, as long as the space has only one wall. The state law permits smoking outdoors, even inches away from an open door or window.
Many states permit residents of nursing homes to smoke in certain designated areas. Wisconsin will not. All hospitals, clinics and nursing homes are included in the smoking ban.
The new law repeals an earlier statute that allowed a business owner to designate certain areas where smoking was permitted, such as private offices or an employee break room. Smoking is banned throughout the employer’s building, including cafeterias, break rooms, restrooms, vehicles, elevators and even (more…)
In 2006, both the federal and Wisconsin minimum wages were $5.15 per hour. At that point, the federal minimum wage had less purchasing power than the $1.60 per hour minimum in the 1960s. To address this issue, the Fair Minimum Wage Act or FMWA was enacted in 2007. The FMWA set forth a series of three increases to the federal minimum wage, beginning in 2007 and ending in 2009.
By contrast, there are 5 states with no minimum wage at all. Those states are Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina and Alabama. Kansas has the dubious distinction of being the state with the lowest minimum wage, at $2.65 per hour.
Employees in Wisconsin are entitled to the Wisconsin minimum wage unless they are covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA).
Interstate commerce is defined as doing business with other states, such as manufacturing goods for sale out-of state, buying goods from out-of state, and answering phone calls from out-of-state vendors. In addition a company that uses the Internet or accepts credit card or debit card for payments is considered to be engaged in interstate commerce.
It is rare to find a business that does not engage in interstate commerce, therefore, most of the employers in all states need to pay their employees the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.
In a business that does not engage in interstate commerce, it is possible (more…)
There are several changes in the Wisconsin labor laws that employers need to be aware of, including those regarding the Wisconsin family leave law, domestic partnerships, smoking ban, and discrimination .
On June 29, 2009 Governor Jim Doyle signed the Wisconsin domestic partnership law. The law, a portion of the state budget, permits registered domestic partners to enjoy the employment benefits currently offered to married couples. These include taking unpaid Wisconsin FMLA (called WFMLA) to care for a domestic partner with a serious health condition, and group health insurance coverage for partners.
The Wisconsin domestic partnership law goes into effect on August 3, 2009. Domestic partners will complete a declaration in their home counties, and can dissolve the partnership through a termination process at the county clerk’s office.
So despite the fact that gay marriage is still illegal in Wisconsin, many gay couples will still benefit from the same privileges including being able to make end-of-life decisions for each other, and having hospital visitation rights.
The law also extends domestic partner benefits including health insurance to state employees.
Earlier in the year, (more…)
The new Wisconsin minimum wage equals the federal minimum wage, which will increase by 70 cents to $7.25 on that date. By state statute, the Wisconsin minimum wage cannot be lower than the federal minimum wage.
The new Wisconsin minimum wage for minors is the same as for adults — $7.25 per hour. The change in the federal minimum wage effectively eliminates the state’s lower minimum wage for minors, which is $5.90 per hour prior to July 24, 2009.
However, the Wisconsin minimum wage contains a number of exceptions. First, the tipped minimum wage for Wisconsin employees remains at $2.33 per hour. Tipped employees who are not yet 20 years old and have been employed for 90 or fewer days may be paid $2.13 per hour. (more…)
The U.S. Department of Labor announced a series of grants in February, including a $250,000 grant for Minnesota.
The project will focus on economic development in 17 counties in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The grant will align economic development resources and establish structured economic strategies that create common goals for northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. Rather than competing for industry, as neighboring states often do, the two states will collaborate to bring more employers into the area.
“Forestry and mining industry declines have hit this region’s workforce hard over the last decade, so it is important that the area’s economic goals are set up to address this issue,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Douglas F. Small. “This $250,000 grant will support analysis of the region’s infrastructure and economic assets, and help develop viable strategies that create good employment opportunities for workers.”
The grant, awarded to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Workforce Partnership Division, will allow northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin to maximize the effectiveness of a newly established leadership group formulating economic goals and strategies focused on the needs of growing industries.
The project funded by the U.S. Department of Labor includes the Minnesota counties of Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake and St. Louis and the Wisconsin counties of Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor and Washburn.
Regional Innovation Grants are drawn from National Emergency Grant funds to assist state workforce agencies and local workforce investment boards, as well as their key partners, in the design and development of comprehensive and strategic regional plans focused on talent development that is aligned with the demands of the 21st century economy.
There have been a number of important grants in the past few months. When the O’Sullivan Industries closed its plant in Lamar, Missouri, displacing many, many workers, the U. S. Department of Labor awarded the state over 1 million dollars in a National Emergency Grant (NEG). In addition, the new SI WORKS program received $250,000 to help improve worker opportunities and to develop the economy in twenty southern Illinois counties.
NEGs are awarded by the U. S. Department of Labor at the discretion of the Secretary of Labor. The grants provide time-limited funds to give local and state service levels a temporary boost when affected by “significant dislocation events.” To clarify, when a company layoff or plant closure creates a greater need than the state’s resources can handle, the state may apply for an Emergency Grant. To qualify, though, the state must include among its resources and discretionary funds that are available to that state.
States are also encouraged to initiate the grant application process immediately after the need arises, in order to ensure funds will be available. State and local employment agencies have information and policies on grants and the application process.
Understand that different types of grants are awarded in different types of situations.
When a community is small or rural and is severely affected by layoffs of fewer than 50 workers, a Regular NEG may be awarded. Industry-wide layoffs within a region and layoffs of more than 50 workers would also be awarded a Regular NEG.
For communities struck by natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, blizzards, wildfires etc., a Disaster grant could be awarded.
Regional Innovation grants are often used to train laid-off worker for job in new industries. These grants are awarded to partnerships developed between business and government and non-profit agencies.
When the Department of Labor determines that an area is affected by federal trade policies, project layoffs of more than 50 workers would be awarded the Trade-WIA Dual Enrollment grant.