By: Kristofor L. Hanson
The Wisconsin Legislature has passed a bill that will eliminate compensatory and punitive damages under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (“WFEA”). Governor Scott Walker is expected to sign the bill in the near future. Once signed, the law will eliminate the availability of compensatory and punitive damages for all future cases brought under the WFEA and any pending WFEA claims in which a judgment has not been entered by Wisconsin’s Equal Rights Division or is awaiting a decision by the Labor and Industry Review Commission on appeal.
Under the existing law, complainants have the right to file an action in circuit court seeking compensatory and punitive damages if they prevail before the Equal Rights Division. The law, enacted in 2009, provided complainants with the opportunity to seek damages for emotional distress, which had previously been unavailable in actions under the WFEA.
Under the new law, damages available will once again be limited to back pay, reinstatement, front pay in lieu of reinstatement, and costs and attorneys’ fees. The new law will provide greater certainty concerning the potential exposure to employers defending against claims under the WFEA. Employees seeking compensatory and punitive damages will now be forced to move their claims to federal court to seek damages beyond the traditional employment law remedies.
If you have any questions about this material, please contact Kris Hanson or any other attorney you have been working with here at Lindner & Marsack, S.C.