Wisconsin employers must comply with a number of laws when deciding whether or not to end a worker’s employment. For instance, an employer cannot fire someone because the person is not of a specific race, was born in another country or embraces a particular religion. Firing a worker in violation of the laws or not upholding the terms of contracts existing between employers and employees is illegal and could provide grounds for the worker to take legal action against the employer.
At-will Employment in Wisconsin
Like many states, Wisconsin has adopted an at-will employment doctrine. This means employers can terminate workers for any reason and at any time, provided they do not have a contract specifying otherwise and there are no other laws regulating the relationship. Although these laws are in place, there are important exceptions, which limit the employer’s right to end a worker’s employment in certain circumstances.
Wrongful Termination in Wisconsin
There are numerous exceptions to the state of Wisconsin’s at-will employment doctrine. If a company fires a worker under these exceptions, it is a violation of the state’s employment laws. This could open the company to a lawsuit by the wronged worker. Through such claims, employees may be able to collect compensation including front and back pay, reimbursement of attorney fees, reasonable accommodations and punitive damages. In addition, the employee may be able to get his or her job back.
Breach of Contract: Any time employers and employees sign contracts, violations can lead to legal action. This includes collective bargaining agreements and contracts negotiated between employers and trade unions on behalf of workers. In some cases, such contracts specify a worker is not an at-will employee. This forfeits the company’s right to terminate the employment relationship at any time or for any reason. Certain contracts may dictate the only situations, which may result in someone losing his or her job, such as for inadequate work performance. Whether they are oral or written, it is essential companies honor the stipulations of employment contracts.
Discrimination: Most wrongful termination situations involve discrimination of some type. Under federal law, employers cannot fire workers based on factors, including the following: age, color, citizenship status, ethnicity, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion or sex. Wisconsin also restricts any type of discrimination based on the person’s marital or military status. State law also indicates people cannot be fired for using lawful products, such as alcohol and tobacco, outside of working hours, when they are not on their employers’ premises, and when the use of those products has nothing to do with their occupational qualifications.
Retaliation: The federal and state laws that dictate discriminatory practices also prohibit employers from firing or taking retaliatory action against employees who file discrimination complaints, participate in discrimination hearings or otherwise assert their legal rights. This includes demoting workers or passing them up for promotions. These are known protected activities and include testifying in court or otherwise assisting to end discriminatory practices by a company or employer.
Wisconsin also has laws in place that prohibit retaliation against employees for serving for jury duty, taking leave to serve in the military, taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act or filing equal pay complaints. Furthermore, state law prohibits companies from terminating employees without cause for up to one year after reinstatement following leave for uniformed service.
Public Policy: Public policy exemptions prevent companies from firing employees when the termination is in violation of the state’s established public policy. For instance, state law allows workers who are injured on the job to collect workers’ compensation benefits. Retaliating against an employee who invokes that right would contravene public policy. Likewise, a company cannot fire a worker on the grounds that he or she refused to do something illegal.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.