Monthly Archives: December 2014

Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules that Municipalities May Implement Prospective Reductions in Employee Benefits

December 29, 2014

By:  Alan M. Levy

On December 19, 2014, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its decision in Stoker v. Milwaukee County and Milwaukee County Pension Board.  In 2011, the County had amended its previous ordinance to reduce the multiplier used to calculate the amount of a person’s pension payments from 2% to 1.6% for years of service which began after January 1, 2012.  The employees challenged this on the theory that they had a vested right to contributions at the higher multiplier because of state law and County ordinances which, they argued, gave them vested rights to benefits when they were hired, and that these vested rights could “not be diminished or impaired” thereafter.

By a 5-2 majority, the Court reversed the decisions of both lower courts and ruled that the employees’ vested benefit was what had been earned prior to the effective date of the amendment.  Because subsequent benefits were earned by the performance of subsequent service, the prospective change could be made.  This position relied on Loth v. City of Milwaukee and several other decisions in which Lindner & Marsack represented the municipal employer.  While not overruling the earlier cases (Welter v. City of Milwaukee and Rehrauer v. City of Milwaukee), the Court limited them to disability benefits, distinguishing them from benefits based on periods of service, such as pensions, paid sick leave, and retiree health insurance.  In short, a benefit based on years of service can be modified and reduced in regard to service not yet performed.

Should there be any questions about these rules and the impact of the Stoker decision, please contact Alan Levy, who is the Lindner & Marsack attorney who represented the employers in these cases.

The Worker’s Compensation Gamble

Lindner & Marsack’s worker’s compensation defense practice is well recognized as an industry leader in providing work injury defense services to many of Wisconsin’s largest employers and insurance carriers.

Doug Feldman heads the Firm’s highly regarded work injury defense team and is a founding Board Member and current President of Kids’ Chance of Wisconsin.  Kids’ Chance is a non-profit organization that provides scholarships to children of seriously injured workers in Wisconsin.

Kids’ Chance of Wisconsin is presenting a complimentary half-day worker’s compensation seminar on February 5, 2015 at Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, followed by a networking cocktail hour and silent auction.  Funds raised at the event will directly support the Kids’ Chance mission of providing financial support, in the form of scholarships, to children of parents who have been seriously injured at work.

If you are interested in attending or sponsoring this event, click here for more information:  Kids Chance – The Workers Compensation Gamble.

Lindner & Marsack owes much of its success to its good friends and clients in Wisconsin and is proud to be able to support this worthy endeavor and give back to the community in such a meaningful way.  We hope you will consider joining us for this educational opportunity.


Supreme Court Gives Employers Holiday Gift

December 11, 2014

By:    John E. Murray

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk.  The question in that case was whether employees are entitled to be paid for time spent in anti-theft security screenings at the end of their shift.

Integrity Staffing supplied employees to Amazon’s warehouses.  These employees retrieved products from warehouse shelves and packaged them for delivery to Amazon’s customers.  At the end of each shift, employees were required to submit to a security screening similar to the process used for airport security.  Employees were required to remove anything containing metal, and to pass through a metal detector.  The purpose of this screening was theft prevention.

Much like the airport screening procedure, this anti-theft process resulted in long lines.  On average, it took employees 25 minutes to get through this process before they could leave work for the day.  A class of employees claimed they should be paid for this time.  The Supreme Court disagreed.

The Supreme Court ruled that employees are not entitled to compensation for pre-shift or post-shift activities unless they are not necessary for the safe or effective performance of their jobs.  For example, meat cutting employees should be paid for time spent sharpening their knives because, without sharp knives, they would be ineffective.  Also, the time employees spend changing clothes and showering after working in a battery plant is compensable because these employees work around toxic chemicals.  The Court found the anti-theft screenings of the Amazon warehouse workers to be different.  Employees could safely and effectively do their jobs without these screenings.  Therefore, the time spent waiting for and submitting to these screenings is not compensable.

The Supreme Court’s decision will benefit every employer who wishes to use post-shift screening procedures to minimize theft or enhance security.  If you have questions about how your organization could implement or benefit from such a procedure, please call John Murray at (414) 226-4818, or any other Lindner & Marsack attorney at (414) 273-3910.