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All in a Day's Work® - Insights on Labor & Employment Law

Compensatory and punitive damages soon to be eliminated under the WFEA

Under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA), a person alleging unlawful employment discrimination, honesty testing, or genetic testing may file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), Equal Rights Division (ERD), under the WFEA. Similar to claims brought at the federal level under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, various remedies are available to a complainant who was unlawfully discriminated against in violation of the WFEA, including reinstating the employee, providing back pay, and paying reasonable costs and attorney fees.

A 2009 change in the law also allowed a successful complainant to bring an action in Wisconsin circuit court to recover compensatory and punitive damages up to $300,000 (depending on the size of the employer) after the completion of all administrative proceedings. However, with the recent passage of 2011 Senate Bill 202, the availability of compensatory and punitive damages will likely soon be eliminated. This bill eliminates the awarding of compensatory and punitive damages under the WFEA to persons who have been discriminated against in employment or subjected to unfair honesty or genetic testing. The bill does not change the ability of the ERD to award back pay, costs, and attorney fees.

2011 Senate Bill 202 is now waiting for Governor Walker’s signature.

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