The cost of complying with human resources and employment regulations is significant for all employers. We need to ensure Wisconsin remains competitive with other states by streamlining employment regulations, addressing the growing medical costs associated with worker’s compensation, and ensuring a level playing field in our labor laws.
HR & Employment
Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation medical costs are significantly higher than the national average, making our employers less competitive. WMC supports curbing these costs, as 45 other states have already done, by implementing a fee schedule for maximum-allowed medical charges. WMC also supports allowing employers to utilize medical providers that have the best outcomes, establishment of enforceable treatment guidelines to ensure appropriate care, and administrative efficiencies throughout the system to reduce transaction costs.
WMC engages with the Department of Workforce Development and lawmakers on potential changes to the Unemployment Insurance system each legislative session. Our priorities must focus on policies that will maintain the integrity of the unemployment system, ensure workers who truly are out of work through no fault of their own are eligible for benefits while searching for new work, and to keep unemployment insurance taxes low for employers.
The state should acknowledge that the unemployment rate has a direct impact on unemployed workers’ ability to find new work by connecting the number of weeks of unemployment benefits to the unemployment rate. As the unemployment rate increases or decreases, so does the availability of jobs. The number of weeks of unemployment benefits should also increase or decrease accordingly.
Too often employers are struggling to hire people even when they apply for a position. We should ensure that unemployment insurance claimants that decline or fail to respond to a job interview or job offer are not eligible for that week’s unemployment benefits. Also, we should require the Department of Workforce Development to conduct random audits of at least 50% of work search actions. This will maintain the integrity of the program and help employers’ fill their workforce needs.
Worker’s Compensation, Unemployment Insurance and the Department of Revenue each have their own criteria for determining if someone is an employee or an independent contractor. This causes great confusion for all involved, especially with the expanding gig economy. Wisconsin should streamline the classification of independent contractors and make the definitions and criteria used uniform across state government.
Governor Thompson signed Wisconsin’s FMLA in 1988. President Clinton signed the federal FMLA in 1993. A harmonization of our state law and federal law has never taken place, leaving Wisconsin companies to deal with two sets of rules. Exempting employers who must follow federal regulations from the state law would remove the burden of complying with both laws, and remove confusion resulting from compliance with two overlapping and conflicting leave laws.
Like FMLA, state and federal law differs when it comes to wage and hour standards. Items like how lunch breaks are treated, travel time, changing clothes and overtime should be federalized so that workers and employers have one set of rules to follow instead of two.
Workers today demand flexibility, and many employers are meeting that demand by allowing flexible schedules to hourly and salaried workers alike. In doing so, many hourly workers are now given employer-provided smart devices. Wisconsin should ensure that preliminary activities, such as de minimis time spent checking emails and calendars on smart devices, do not count toward compensable hours worked.
Younger and low-skilled workers need the opportunity to begin their climb up the career ladder by gaining experience through entry-level jobs. Raising the minimum wage will increase the cost of employing entry-level workers, resulting in fewer job opportunities for workers entering the workforce who need to build skills and experience for their career.
Employers face an increased risk of corporate espionage with the ever-increasing use of technology. Wisconsin should ensure that it is illegal for employees to remove an employer’s data, records, etc. without consent, and hold anyone who assists in such efforts as jointly liable.
Restrictive covenants protect the intellectual and proprietary information of employers from misuse by former employees. Wisconsin judges often must nullify these employment contracts in their entirety if one part of the contract is found to be too broad or restrictive. Judges should be given the ability to strike or reduce a clause they find to be invalid while still reserving the remainder of the contract, giving employers certainty that their intellectual property will be protected by the courts.
Employers need consistency and certainty in the employment laws they must follow. As it has done for many other areas of employment law, the state should recognize discrimination law as an area of statewide concern and prohibit local units of government from establishing employment discrimination classes that differ from state law.
Politicians often believe they can force employers to do what the politicians believe to be right by using the heavy hand of government to mandate decisions on hiring, wages, etc. Government, be it the state or a local unit, should not be in the business of micro-managing decisions employers make regarding their operations.
Some states, like Illinois, California, and Oregon, have started mandating that employers provide employees with access to a state-created retirement savings account. Some even mandate that employees must automatically put money into these accounts. These plans do not have the federal protections of traditional retirement accounts for participants, and employers are prohibited from making matching contributions, limiting the potential savings power of the accounts for workers. Instead, private sector banking solutions should be encouraged. We believe that employers and workers, not the government, should determine benefit packages.
Employers take their obligation to ensure a safe workplace for both employees and customers very seriously. For many employers, maintaining a drug-free work environment is critical to ensuring the safety of their employees. WMC will oppose efforts to legalize the recreational use of marijuana because doing so will endanger the safety of workers.
If you would like to learn more about our stance on human resources and employment law or have questions, contact Rachel Ver Velde, WMC’s Senior Director of Workforce, Education and Employment Policy.
HR & Employment
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