Employment & Labor

Not much to say about the reporting by the Verge on the disaster that is FoxConn in Wisconsin. The picture presented in this article is of vaporware: no actual product plans were ever in place for anything in Wisconsin and the company has struggled since to come up with something. Still, I do wish I could have raced some of those golf carts around the empty warehouse. That sounded fun. The sad news is that politics continues to divide on reality. Empty buildings, nothing being manufactured, and an utter failure to even hire a minimum of 520 jobs (when the…
The scale continues to tip. On Sept. 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued proposed regulations aimed at “bringing clarity and consistency” in determining who is an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said in the news release that the purpose is to “make it easier to identify employees covered [by the FLSA], while also respecting the decision other workers make to pursue the freedom and entrepreneurialism associated with being an independent contractor.” An Ever-changing Worker Classification Worker classification has been hotly contested in the recent years. The Obama administration issued…
The pandemic rages on, and unemployment remains an economic lifeblood for hundreds of thousands in Wisconsin. Yet, unemployment has also been a dangerous option for some time now, because the Department considers any claim-filing mistake to be fraudulent. When a mistake is discovered, the Department presumes the mistake was intentional, and the claimant must then explain why that mistake was actually not intentional and just an accident. The Department considers any apology for a mistake, an admission that you lacked awareness or knowledge of the unemployment issue, or a failure to look up the relevant information in the claimant handbook…
Much has been made during this pandemic about how woeful the computer systems in Wisconsin are for handling unemployment claims. The Century Foundation has released an extensive report on October 5th about the efforts to modernization unemployment systems. This report is timely because, first, unemployment has become a major part of the economic response to the pandemic. After all, 695,000 new claims in October 1982 was the previous highest number of initial claims filed in a week. With the pandemic, new claims exceeded 6.6 million for two weeks in a row and have been more than 2 million every…
After logging in to your web portal for unemployment benefits at https://my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov/, here are some helpful guides about how to navigate this portal and find relevant information. Viewing initial determinations Unemployment issues are at first decided via initial determinations, so these documents are what you need to read carefully when they are issued (as noted already, delays in processing unemployment claims are monumental right now, so do not expect these initial determinations to be issued soon after filing your unemployment claim). To see the initial determinations connected to your claim, do NOT click on the View ALL…
Employers need to keep abreast of the ever-changing agency rules regarding whether a worker is an “independent contractor” or an “employee.” You might ask, “why does this matter to the government?” The answer is easy: many government agencies—both state and federal—are designed solely to protect employees.  The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (which monitors unemployment insurance, workers compensation, and equal rights for employees) to name a few.  Because “employees” have these protections and “independent contractors” do not, our government is…
An audit of the unemployment phone system for Wisconsin revealed last week that from March 15th through June 30th — 3.5 months — only 0.5% of the calls to the help system managed to get through. Not until the two additional phone call centers were up and running and the number of calls fell to 55,698 during the week ending 8/22/20 were there finally no calls blocked. Much of the criticism concerning this collapse of the phone system has centered on the legal changes enacted by Republicans under Gov. Walker. See here and here. Yes, the whole point of…
In 1932, WW1 veterans marched on Washington over a bonus promised them at a later date but needed now in the throes of the Great Depression. Congress refused to pay this bonus because of concerns over budget shortages and creating a moral hazard through this “free” money. Documentary done with original footage A quick history lesson For a full history of the bonus army protest, see this documentary in four parts. Please watch all four parts (around 30 minutes). Technically, the bonus army protest predates the creation of unemployment benefits. But, the idea of what the bonus army wanted…
Jake has the details on the economic effect all of the additional unemployment and tax payments that came out of the CARES Act and other legislation. Of mid-western states, Wisconsin lagged behind its neighbors of Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa (and the national average was 34.2%). Either Wisconsin has been less damaged by the pandemic than other states, or Wisconsin has been less successful than other states in paying out all of the pandemic-related unemployment benefits currently available. I am thinking the latter. Of course, income was still up in the second quarter of 2020 despite the pandemic because…
Just one example of where the Department ignores the unemployment law it is supposed to be following. Numerous SSDI recipients are being denied PUA benefits because they are not answering a question the way the Department wants that question answered. The question: Before this question and guidance is examined, let us first examine what the actual legal requirements for full-time work (aka being able and available) are for the purpose of unemployment benefits. Department regulations define being able and available as: (3) Able to work. (a) Able to work means that the claimant maintains an attachment to the labor market…
It’s safe to say our nation is in uncharted territory when contemplating how to establish a work-life balance while homeschooling and caring for children, keeping up with the demands of “work from home,” and facing an unknown future. Fortunately, many people have had access to the necessary technology to work from home. Unfortunately, there is no handbook on how to balance employment with childcare and educational needs. Early Days of the Pandemic At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, school and daycare closures appeared to be temporary. With-out substantial time to determine the best practice for holding classes, teachers, administrators,…
A property owner, Timothy Casa De Calvo, sued the Town of Hudson claiming that he adversely possessed real property adjacent to his house. The property in question had been dedicated about 31 years before as a street on a subdivision plat. The Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Town, and the court of appeals affirmed the judgment. Casa De Calvo v. Town of Hudson, No. 2019AP1851 (Wis. Ct. App. Sept. 9, 2020). The Court of Appeals explained that the property in question could not be adversely possessed because under Wis. Stat. § 893.29(2)(c) (1987-88)[1] it…
These posts — hundreds of thousands still waiting to be paid benefits and about legal obstacles being waived because of Department mishandling of claims — have led folks to contact me about their own stories of delay. Note: The comments on numerous posts on this blog already contain dozens of stories about delays with claims. See here, here, here, and here, for example. These stories need to be consolidated in one place. Why not right here with this post? So, if you have a story about a delay, please add it to the comments below. Update…
Previously, I reviewed the initial claims numbers and how hundreds of thousands of claimants in Wisconsin are still waiting for their unemployment checks. Here, I am reviewing what these delays mean legally to claimants and how the Department continues to make things worse. Late appeals By law, claimants only have 14 days to file an appeal of an initial determination. Far too many claimants are looking to their unemployment portals to get a handle on what is happening with their claims. Unlike the employer-side portal, the claimant-side portal is still a confusing mess to navigate and actual documents like…
There has been an unemployment meltdown in Wisconsin. Claimants wait and wait and wait for their cases to be decided, but no one is asking about the extent of these delays or why they are occurring. Here are some answers. Longer times First, take note of a statistic the Department has been reporting after the pandemic had been underway for a few months: the average number of days from initial application to first payment (or initial determination denying benefits). Rather than decreasing as the number of initial claims and PUA claims have declined and the number of staffers have more
Late last week, the Department of Labor issued a revised rule to address a New York federal judge’s order from this past August that struck down several provisions of the FFCRA.  (For a copy of Ruder Ware’s ealert on that order, click here.) The order left employers confused: Should we follow the original FFCRA or the judge’s order?  We advised several clients to hold off on making any changes until the DOL issued revised regulations. Well, finally, we have them! Note there were four main areas at issue: 1) the health care provider exception; 2) the work availability requirement;…