Governor Doyle signed into law Senate Bill 20 which significantly alters the remedies available for successful Complainants who bring employment discrimination, unfair honesty testing or unfair genetic testing complaints under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act ("WFEA").
Until recently, the only remedies available to Complainants under the WFEA were back pay, reinstatement, front pay and attorney fees. Senate Bill 20 now allows, after the completion of all administrative proceedings, successful Complainants (or the Department of Workforce Development) to file suit in state court to recover compensatory and punitive damages. Given the ability for successful Complainants to recover more money, coupled with the undeniable fact that certain discrimination claims under the WFEA, such as disability claims, are broader than federal law, it is very likely when that employers will experience an increase in the number of complaints filed under the WFEA.
The compensatory and punitive damages limits under Senate Bill 20 follows the Title VII damage caps and is as follows:
- Up to $300,000 if an employer has more than 500 employees;
- Up to $200,000 if an employer has more than 200 but 500 or fewer employees;
- Up to $100,000 if an employer has more than 100 but 200 or fewer employees;
- Up to $50,000 if an employer has 15 to 100 employees.
These amounts will be adjusted annually every July (beginning July 1, 2010) in accordance with adjustments reflected by the Consumer Price Index.
Senate Bill 20 will take effect on the 2nd day after publication of the 2009-11 biennial budged act or on the day after publication, whichever is later.
If you have any questions about the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act or any other related issues, please contact Lisa Baiocchi or the Constangy Attorney of your choice.
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