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Wisconsin Employment Law Watch: Legislature Weighs Curbing Damages under Anti-Discrimination Law

  • October 13, 2011

A bill has been introduced in the Wisconsin Assembly that would repeal the right of successful complainants to receive an award of compensatory and punitive damages in circuit court under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act. Assembly Bill 289 was introduced on September 29, 2011.

Recent History of Remedies Available

Prior to June 8, 2009, if a complaining party was successful in proving his or her allegations of employment discrimination, unfair honesty or genetic testing, under the Act he or she could recover back pay (with interest) and attorney’s fees and costs.  Additionally, in some circumstances, the complaining party would have been entitled to receive an order of reinstatement, or front pay in lieu of reinstatement.

Then, however, Wisconsin’s controversial “Act 20” became law.  Act 20 added compensatory and punitive damages to the remedies available to a successful complainant under the Fair Employment Act.  Act 20 applied to complaints filed with the Department of Workforce Development on or after July 2, 2009.  Thus, a successful complaining party, after completion of all administrative procedures, could file an action in circuit court to recover compensatory and punitive damages.

If Assembly Bill 289 Becomes Law

Assembly Bill 289 seeks to repeal Act 20 and restore the Fair Employment Act’s remedies to their pre-June 8, 2009 status by eliminating compensatory and punitive damages from the relief available to successful complainants.

We will provide updates on Assembly Bill 289 as warranted.

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