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On February 16, 2021, Governor Tony Evers unveiled his 2021-23 biennial budget proposal to a joint session of the Legislature. The Governor’s budget proposal recommended $91 billion in operating expenditures over the two-year budget cycle, which represents a 9.7 percent ($4.043 billion) increase over the prior two-year budget. The majority of the increased expenditures proposed by the Governor are devoted to K-12 school aids, which he stated will result in the fulfillment of the state’s promise to provide two-thirds funding for public school expenditures, which began under Governor Tommy Thompson. Other notable provisions in the Governor’s proposed budget include increased…
The COVID-19 crisis has brought major changes to the U.S. workforce. Many employers have transitioned their workforces to remote work. Now, employees can work from anywhere with an Internet connection. Many employees have taken advantage of the flexibility by investing in home office spaces, moving to different states, and even traveling the country. What most employees and employers haven’t considered, however, are the unique and complex income tax issues that have arisen with a remote workforce. Understanding State Income Tax Scheme Generally, an employee’s home state can tax her income regardless of where the money is earned. She also can…
On January 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a long-awaited Final Rule regarding independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The DOL intended the new rule to take effect on May 7, 2021 and clarify the test for determining independent contractor status. On February 5, 2021, the DOL announced that implementation of the final rule is delayed, pending further review by the Wage and Hour Division. The DOL has also withdrawn two opinion letters, FLSA_2019-6 (addressing whether a service provider for a virtual marketplace company is an employee of the company or an independent…
Presently, 36 states have legalized medical marijuana and 15 have legalized full adult (i.e., recreational) use.  It is anticipated five more will be added to that column in 2021.  Three of the four states contiguous to Wisconsin have either medical marijuana (Minnesota) or both medical and adult-use (Illinois and Michigan).  So what’s in store for the Badger state? Governor Evers recently announced that he intends to include provisions for both medical and adult-use marijuana in his upcoming budget as a way to generate revenue for schools and rural communities.  He had included a provision for medical marijuana in his past…
January 29, 2021, OSHA issued new guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.  The new guidance provides a comprehensive description of workplace COVID issues and best practices.  It is a good resource for employers with questions regarding managing COVID-19 in the workplace.  The guidance is advisory in nature and creates no new legal obligations for employers. The guidance continues to recommend practices that reduce the risk of exposure in the workplace such as the wearing of face coverings, distancing, and frequent disinfecting.  In addition, the guidance recommends employers implement a COVID-19 Prevention Program including a hazard assessment,…
Yesterday, the Wisconsin Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution 3 (SJ3), which formally repealed Governor Tony Ever’s COVID-19 Public Health Executive Order #104 and the statewide mask mandate. Under Wisconsin law, the Legislature may override a Governor’s public health emergency order by a joint resolution. The Governor is not required to sign the resolution and may not veto it; instead, the resolution is effective when the leaders of both houses of the Legislature sign it. Legislative leaders are expected to sign the bill today. As of the time this was posted, the state Senate is in session. Shortly after the Legislature…
Our company has a paid time off (PTO) policy entitling employees to paid vacation and sick leave. When they request time off, can they choose to use unpaid leave instead if they still have a PTO balance? In Wisconsin, an employer isn’t obligated to offer PTO to their employees, including paid vacation or sick leave. Federal law also doesn’t require employers to provide PTO or paid or unpaid vacation time or sick leave. Likewise, a Wisconsin employer isn’t obligated to offer unpaid time off—excluding federal and state law-mandated leave, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the…
As one of his first orders of business in his new administration, President Biden has selected a new leader and co-leader for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  The President has selected two Democrats, Charlotte Burrows (new leader) and Jocelyn Samuels (second-in-command) to lead the EEOC. The EEOC is a federal agency made up of administration appointees, as well as career staff who are federal employees.  Despite the new leaders, the EEOC will continue to have a majority of Republican members until roughly mid-2022. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal workplace discrimination laws.  Most employers with at least…
Buying or selling a home is an incredibly exciting process. After all, it is often one of the biggest purchases one will make, and is often the most valuable asset in a person’s net worth. Unfortunately, the process of buying or selling a home does not always go smoothly. A recent decision by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in Parks v. Wucherer is one of many cases that demonstrate why you should always hire an attorney when buying or selling a home in a trust or estate. In 2017, the Parkses purchased a home from the Wucherer Trust. Throughout the…
Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) issued Emergency Order #12, which went into effect as of 12:01am on January 13, 2021. The Order mirrors the previous emergency orders, but makes three changes that ease previous restrictions. First, the Order allows outdoor gatherings with up to 50 individuals in attendance (not including employees). The previous order limited outdoor gatherings to 25 individuals. Individuals who attend an outdoor gathering must continue to maintain six (6) feet of physical distancing from anyone they do not live with. Additionally, indoor gatherings continue to be limited to 10 individuals, with physical distancing…
Wisconsin prohibits discrimination in employment decisions based on criminal convictions. One defense to such claims is that the circumstances of the crime the applicant or employee was convicted of are “substantially related” to the job duties. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals recently considered the substantial-relationship test when the conviction was for domestic violence crimes and the job was a lighting application specialist. It ruled in the applicant’s favor, finding the employer—which declined to hire him based on the criminal convictions—hadn’t met its burden of establishing the defense. What Wisconsin Law Says As all employers are keenly aware, various federal, state,…
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things about how companies operate, most employers still have formal disciplinary policies establishing ground rules for employee conduct and setting out consequences for failure to meet expectations. If an employee still required to work in person has been exposed to the coronavirus and gotten tested without notifying her employer (and later is confirmed positive), can she be fired for violating a formal disciplinary policy that includes prohibitions on actions that pose a danger to others or jeopardize the business’s safe and efficient operations? Knowingly Exposing Others to COVID-19 The short answer is a…
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the FFCRA) required most private employers with less than 500 employees and certain public employers to provide paid leave benefits to eligible employees for specified qualifying reasons related to COVID-19.  Full-time employees, unable to work or telework for qualifying reasons, were eligible to receive a total of up to 80 hours of paid sick leave.  Another 10-12 weeks of paid expanded family medical leave was available to eligible employees unable to work or telework because of school or daycare closures related to COVID-19.  The leave benefits became effective April 1, 2020, with a sunset…
The approval of two—and potentially more—COVID-19 vaccines by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been met by employers with optimism that their safe-workplace woes related to COVID-19 are at long-last coming to an end. Although there is cause for hope, employers should beware of the legal pitfalls of mandating a vaccination program among its workforce. Can We Mandate the Vaccine? As the impending likelihood that a COVID-19 vaccine will soon become available to essential workers and the general public, many employers are considering implementing a mandatory vaccination program for employees. For some employers, a mandatory vaccination program may…
On Tuesday, December 15, 2020, Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) issued Emergency Order #11, easing some of the restrictions put in place by Emergency Order #10. Emergency Order #11 allows indoor gatherings of up to 10 people (with physical distancing and face coverings), and allows outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people (with physical distancing). The prior order banned indoor gatherings of any size, and limited outdoor gatherings to 10 people. The prior order further prohibited sports activities, competitions, group exercise classes, festivals, concerts, conferences and meetings of any size. Under Emergency Order #11, these activities…
Businesses don’t typically enter into contracts thinking that one of the parties will breach and the matter will end up in court. As a result, the provision dealing with where the parties must litigate a dispute, known as a forum selection clause, often does not get the attention it deserves. It does not help that the provision is usually buried in boilerplate language near the end of the contract. The forum selection clause specifies where the parties must litigate disputes arising under the contact. Businesses entering into contracts with out-of-state parties use the provision to ensure that a dispute will…