Wisconsin Legislature Does Not Pass Credit Discrimination in Employment Law

The 2009 Wisconsin legislature did not vote on AB-367, a bill that would have prohibited discrimination in employment based on credit history. The bill just did not get to the floor in time for a vote. It made it out of the Assembly, but not the Senate. This bill would have made Wisconsin one of a handful of states across the country that recognized the need for credit discrimination laws due to the recession we are in and the impact the recession has on many people that lost their jobs, and as a result, suffered severe financial losses and harm to their credit.

Wisconsin Legislature Does Not Pass Credit Discrimination in Employment Law

The 2009 Wisconsin legislature did not vote on AB-367, a bill that would have prohibited discrimination in employment based on credit history. The bill just did not get to the floor in time for a vote. It made it out of the Assembly, but not the Senate. This bill would have made Wisconsin one of a handful of states across the country that recognized the need for credit discrimination laws due to the recession we are in and the impact the recession has on many people that lost their jobs, and as a result, suffered severe financial losses and harm to their credit.

Gordon Leech Testifies to Wisconsin Senate on Conviction Record Discrimination

On April 8, 2010, Gordon Leech testified on behalf of the Individual Rights and Responsibilities Committee of the Wisconsin Bar, the Wisconsin Employment Lawyers Association and for the thousands of Wisconsin citizens that are subject to unfair and unlawful discrimination in the hiring process because they have to disclose the existence and nature of any prior convictions when applying for employment. The Senate Committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs held a hearing to consider Senate Bill SB-612, which if passed into law, would prohibit employers in Wisconsin from asking about convictions prior to selecting a job applicant for interview. Unfortunately, the 2009 session of the Wisconsin legislature is coming to a close, so the prospect of this bill passing into law this session is doubtful.

Gordon Leech Testifies to Wisconsin Senate on Conviction Record Discrimination

On April 8, 2010, Gordon Leech testified on behalf of the Individual Rights and Responsibilities Committee of the Wisconsin Bar, the Wisconsin Employment Lawyers Association and for the thousands of Wisconsin citizens that are subject to unfair and unlawful discrimination in the hiring process because they have to disclose the existence and nature of any prior convictions when applying for employment. The Senate Committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs held a hearing to consider Senate Bill SB-612, which if passed into law, would prohibit employers in Wisconsin from asking about convictions prior to selecting a job applicant for interview. Unfortunately, the 2009 session of the Wisconsin legislature is coming to a close, so the prospect of this bill passing into law this session is doubtful.

Wisconsin Assembly Passes AB-367 Prohibiting Discrimination because of Credit History

On April 22, 2010, on the last day of the regular session for the 2009 legislative floor session, the Wisconsin Assembly passed AB-367 which prohibits employment discrimination based on credit history. This is an emerging protection in employment discrimination laws across the country with less than a handful of states enacting similar legislation. The Bill still has to pass the Senate and be signed by the Governor before it becomes law.

Federal Employment Credit Check Law Proposed HR 3149 Equal Employment for All

Sixty percent of employers now conduct credit checks on job applicants.  Credit checks in hiring put job seekers in a Catch-22, in which they can’t pay their bills because they lost their jobs, but now they can’t get a job because they can’t pay their bills. Congressmen Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) recently introduced HR 3149, the Equal Employment for All Act, to restrict the use of credit checks in employment and put job seekers back to work. The bill will soon be heard in the House Financial Services Committee and needs the support of your elected officials.  You can visit www.creditcatch22.org to learn more about the bill, and you can click on “Contact Your Legislators” to talk to your representatives in government about stopping this discriminatory practice.

Wisconsin Assembly Introduces Companion Bill 854 Regarding Conviction Record Discrimination

On March 16, 2010, the Wisconsin State Assembly, lead by Representatives Parisi, Fields, Pasch, Grigsby, Sinicki, Turner, Roys and Kessler, and cosponsored by Senator Taylor, introduced Assembly Bill 854. Assembly Bill 854 is the Assembly version of Senate Bill 612, which would make it unlawful for an employer to ask about criminal convictions before selecting an applicant for an interview. The bill was sent to the committee on Corrections and the Courts. As I said in my post on SEnate Bill 612, This amendment is similar to the law on disability discrimination in employment, which prohibits inquiries into any disabilities until after an applicant is offered a job. So the disabilities law is a bit more protective than even this proposed amendment to WFEA on conviction record discrimination. Still, the proposed bill would be a significant step towards stopping unlawful discrimination because of a conviction record. It may also help employers hire good employees that they would not otherwise have considered. To view the history of this bill, go to http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/AB854hst.html. Talk to your representatives in the state legislature about this bill if you support it. They need to know. You can find your state representative by visiting http://www.legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/waml/waml.aspx.

Wisconsin Law Proposed to Prohibit Inquiry Into Conviction Record Before Gettting Interview

On March 11, 2010, Senator Taylor, with Representatives Parisi, Fields, Pasch, Gribsby, Sinicki, Turner, Roys and Kessler as co-sponsors, introduced Senate Bill 612 (2009-2010) to create an amendment to the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA). The WFEA already prohibits discrimination based on an arrest or conviction record with certain exceptions when the conviction and job are substantially related, but the current version of the Act permits employers to make inquiries of applicants about convictions. Many applicants won’t know why they did not get an interview, and many times it can be due to a conviction record even though the job and the conviction are not substantially related. This bill would prohibit employers from asking applicants about a conviction record until after the employer selects an applicant for an initial interview. The proposal was sent to the Committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs, and is still a long way from becoming law, if it can survive the legislative process. This amendment is similar to the law on disability discrimination in employment, which prohibits inquiries into any disabilities until after an applicant is offered a job. So the disabilities law is a bit more protective than even this proposed amendment to WFEA on conviction record discrimination. Still, the proposed bill would be a significant step towards stopping unlawful discrimination because of a conviction record. It may also help employers hire good employees that they would not otherwise have considered. To view the history of this bill, go to http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/SB612hst.html. Talk to your representatives in the state legislature about this bill if you support it. They need to know. You can find your state representative by visiting http://www.legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/waml/waml.aspx.

New Appellate Decision Illustrates Importance of Communication About Disabilities at Work

A new decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal courts illustrates the importance of information an employee must provide an employer about needed accomodations for physical or mental conditions that affect one’s ability to perform the essential functions of a job. In Ekstrand v. School District of Somerset, decided October 6, 2009, the Court of Appeals found that an employer did not have to accomodate an employee with a room with exterior windows for several months, despite her request, because she did not provide a doctor’s note or tell the employer that her doctor said that was necessary for her to minimize the effects of a seasonal affective disorder. She did eventually provide a letter from her doctor stating that the exterior windows were necessary. The court found that until that time, the school district would not be held accountable for failing to provide that form of accomodation. The court essentially said that the knowledge of the employer is dependent on what the employee tells it, when it comes to knowledge of the disability and medical needs for accomodation. Bottom line is, an employee with a physical or mental disability is best served by communicating his or her needs and providing a letter or medical note from the doctor endorsing that request. Then, the employee must continue to communicate with the employer in an effort to inform the employer of the condition and working towards finding a reasonable solution to the employee’s needs with regard to an accomodation that will permit the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. If the communication process breaks down, the party responsible for breaking the communication will be at fault.

New Law In Wisconsin Provides More Relief to Victims of Employment Discrimination

Act 20, passed in the Wisconsin legislature in 2009, added the ability to recover non-economic and punitive damages against an employer of 15 or more employees in Wisconsin that violates the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act. The change in the law permits a victim of employment discrimination to recover monetary damages for things like emotional pain and suffering, economic losses that go beyond lost wages, and where an employer acts in reckless disregard of the law, an amount of monetary damages to punish the employer and encourage it to comply with the law in the future. The new law affects violations of the WFEA that occur on and after July 1, 2009.

Attorney Gordon Leech

Representing Individuals in Consumer and Employment Matters