Employment Law Basics in Wisconsin

Talk to a Local Attorney

Both federal and state employment laws protect all employees throughout the employment process. This is a guide to the basic laws that protect employees in Wisconsin.

Rules for Hiring

It is Illegal to discriminate against job applicants or employees because of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Employers may not use these factors in job advertisements, interviews, or application decisions.

Employers must constrain interview questions to those pertinent to the position available. They are barred from asking questions about disability; questions about race, sex, national origin, age, and religion are inappropriate in determining aptitude.

Minimum Wage and Overtime

Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Employers are required to pay at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of 1.5 times the regular rate of pay. Overtime rules cover the majority of employees, but there may be exceptions.

States may have their own laws, with additional protections. Wisconsin's minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

Workplace Conditions

Employees have the right to a safe work environment. Employers must provide working conditions without known dangers and provide safety training. Employees have the right to ask the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to perform inspections for safety, and employers may not retaliate, discriminate, or fire employees for pointing out unsafe conditions.

Workers' Compensation

Worker’s compensation is a disability compensation program that provides remuneration to workers who are injured at work or who acquire an occupational disease. Examples of compensation include wage replacement, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and death benefits.

Federal compensation covers federal workers. Individuals injured on the job while employed by private companies or state and local government agencies must refer to Wisconsin Workers' Compensation Board.

Time-Off Regulations

In addition to employers' time-off programs, some types of time off are required by federal and state laws, including family and medical leave to take time off for personal and family needs. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid time off and sometimes longer. You have the right to be reinstated after leave in the same or equal position.

Wisconsin allows time off to vote with notification to employers in advance.

Protection from Harassment

Harassment is a type of employment discrimination that is illegal under federal law and includes, but is not limited to, sexual harassment. Harassment is defined as any unwelcome conduct related to race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. The offensive conduct cannot be a condition of continued employment, or create a hostile, intimidating, or abusive work environment.

Rights on Termination

Almost all states are “employment at will” states, including Wisconsin. Private-sector employers and employees have the right to terminate employment at will, at any time, and without a reason.

Employers may not terminate workers for illegal reasons including: retaliation, discrimination, refusal to take a lie detector test, alien status, making an OSHA complaint, or for violating public policy such as refusing to break a law, complaining about illegal acts, or exercising a legal right.

Wisconsin requires employers to give outgoing employees their final paychecks on the next payday. Any vacation pay that has accrued is required to be paid out in your final paycheck.

After-Employment Rights

The Department of Labor's Unemployment Insurance programs provide unemployment benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own. Benefits are equal to a percentage of earnings for a maximum of 26 weeks. Wisconsin’s benefits amount can be calculated on the state’s Department of Workforce Development website.

COBRA is a federal program that offers eligible former employees, retirees, spouses, former spouses, and dependent children the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates for 18 months. This coverage, however, is only available when employment is lost due to voluntary and involuntary termination not gross misconduct. Small companies with fewer than 20 employees are usually excluded from federal COBRA coverage, but Wisconsin offers mini-COBRA, a program that extends group coverage rates to employees of smaller companies of 19 or fewer. Wisconsin's health care continuation law covers all employers maintaining group policies issued in Wisconsin.


Employment law is complicated and confusing. If you have any questions about your employment circumstances, it is best to speak with a Wisconsin employment lawyer.

Get Professional Help

Find a lawyer
Practice Area:
Zip Code:
How It Works
  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Connect with local attorneys
Have a legal question?
Get answers from local attorneys.
It's free and easy.
Ask a Lawyer