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…)
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 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.
Thanks to new legislation, family members and the next of kin of Wisconsin active duty soldiers will be able to take off as much as 26 weeks of unpaid job protected leave from work under certain conditions
The recently signed bill appears to allow employees to take the time either to care for an injured soldier or to help care for a child if a member of the military is called to active duty.
The President signed the bill on January 28, 2008. It is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 (NDAA), or HR 4986. It essentially expands the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by providing up to 26 weeks of the FMLA leave for relatives and spouses of Reserve and National Guard members called to active duty, among other things.
The legislation allows a worker to take the leave for “any qualifying exigency” that occurs because a spouse, son, daughter, or parent or the worker is on active duty, or even has been notified that active duty is imminent. This is likely to mean taking time off to care for a child or children when a family member in the military is deployed. Details are contradictory at this time. The provision technically does not take effect until the U.S. Labor Secretary issues completed regulations that include a definition of “qualifying exigency” and just is included under that definition. At the same time, the U.S. Labor Department is “encouraging” employers to provide the leave immediately.
The law also allows a family member – whether, child, parent, spouse, or next of kin – to take the leave to care for an injured soldier, a member of the National Guard or Reserve who is getting medical treatment. The treatment could involve receiving mental therapy or physical therapy. It could also involve recuperating, outpatient treatments, or caring for a soldier who is on what is called the temporary disability retired list for an injury or illness considered serious.
The law took effect immediately. In the absence of more detail, employers’ “good faith” compliance with the regulations is urged.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was a major change for Wisconsin workers. For the first time, the law required employers to provide an employee with leave when he or she suffered from serious health problems. FMLA leave is unpaid, but job protected, meaning the worker is guaranteed the same or a similar job when he or she returns.
The only expansion of the law since its original passage is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2008, which, among other things, increases leave time for relatives of military personnel on active duty. The U.S. Department of Labor is scrambling to complete regulations based on the NDAA, and few details are available yet.
The FMLA provides workers with a guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave yearly. The time can be used if the employee is seriously ill. Workers can also use it to care for a member of the immediate family with an illness. By “immediate family” the law refers to spouses, children or parents, but not grandparents, in-laws, or siblings.
The law is meant to allow employees to care for a newborn child, a new foster child under 18 or a newly adopted child, thus its common designation as “maternity leave” or “paternity leave.”
The Act applies only to companies with 50 workers or more within a radius of 75 miles. Again, some states have expanded coverage to include smaller firms.
While no state or federal law says workers must be paid for FMLA leave, some companies will count paid time off, including sick time, toward the employee’s 12 weeks of leave. Employers must notify the worker in writing of this before the leave begins, however.
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 (the NDAA) is the first significant enlargement of the FMLA since it was passed in 1993. It covers relatives of soldiers, but the U.S. Labor Department has not yet developed regulations based on the legislation, so details are still sketchy.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced a $1.2 million grant to help beleaguered workers in Wisconsin. Funds of $420,000 of the $1,220,000 will be released immediately to assist workers displaced by the recent flooding in western and central Wisconsin.
On September 6, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared the Wisconsin counties of Crawford, La Crosse, Richland, Sauk and Vernon eligible for FEMA’s Public Assistance program.
According to the University of Wisconsin Extension Service, area farmers were hit hard by the flood in the west and central regions, while other parts of the state continue to suffer a drought. Both conventional and organic vegetable growers were especially hurt by the heavy rainfall and swollen rivers. Some federal assistance is also available for farmers in afflicted areas.
The heavy rains saturated soils in the region and in many cases floodwater deposited sediment on crop fields. A number of farmers have filed crop insurance claims, particularly for damaged corn and soybean crops.
The federal funds will be used to create temporary jobs to aid in cleanup and recovery efforts.
“This $1.2 million grant will provide dislocated workers with temporary jobs helping Wisconsin communities affected by the recent flooding,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.
The Labor Department grant, awarded to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, will provide temporary jobs to workers affected by the recent flooding. Other dislocated workers and the long-term unemployed are also eligible for jobs under the grant. The jobs will involve the cleanup, restoration and humanitarian efforts in the areas affected by the floods.
This is just the most recent in a wave of emergency grants for workers in the past few months.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provided a grant earlier this year to almost 250 workers in Rhode Island who were laid off. As a grant of more than $1.2 million, it helped the 246 employees who had worked at the corporate offices of Brooks Eckerd in Warwick, Rhode Island, after Rite Aid acquired Brooks Eckerd.
The DOL offers what are called National Emergency Grants, or NEG’s, and they are awarded at the discretion of Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao. Whenever a layoff or plant closing creates a need beyond a state’s capacity for assistants, that state may apply for one of the NEG’s. Regular NEG grants are available when a layoff affects 50 or more workers, when the layoffs are industry-wide within a certain region, or when a small town or rural community is hit hard by layoffs.
When the O’Sullivan Industries plant in Lamar, Missouri closed, the workers received an award of nearly $1.1 million. In Illinois, $250,000 in grant money went to a program called SI WORKS aimed at boosting economic development as well as opportunities for workers in 20 counties within the southern part of the state.
Two grants totaling more than $1.94 million will help workers in both Massachusetts and Missouri. Those grants were designed to help provide job resources to workers who lost jobs because of plant closings. The workers, according to the DOL, also qualify for additional financial help under what is called the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, or TAA.
In Minnesota, the DOL provided a $3 million grant for temporary jobs and benefits for workers in parts of the state hit by flash floods.
Secretary Chao pointed to a grant of more than $2 million. The funds went to 400 workers laid off by Micron Technology, Inc., of Boise Idaho. Of the total, the DOL immediately turned over $847,538 to help those workers who were dislocated by the layoffs.
Secretary Chao said the grant will offer the workers “skills training, career counseling and other employment services to help them find and succeed in new jobs.”