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Volume XI, Number 128

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De Pere Joins Wisconsin Municipalities With Nondiscrimination Ordinances

On November 21, 2017, the De Pere city council added to Wisconsin’s list of municipalities with local nondiscrimination ordinances. For employers, the De Pere ordinance creates a unique protected class in Wisconsin: victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. De Pere, Wisconsin, employers will need to comply with the new ordinance when it takes effect on March 1, 2018.

With De Pere’s ordinance, Wisconsin is now home to four municipalities with employment nondiscrimination rules that go beyond the protections provided by state and federal law. Appleton joined Madison and Milwaukee in 2014 to become the third municipality to pass such nondiscrimination laws. Nearly every one of these ordinances recognizes at least one protected class that is unique compared to any other local, state, or federal requirement. In addition to recognizing victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking as a protected class, the ordinance includes protections, distinct from state or federal law, on the basis of family status, gender identity, gender expression, and source of lawful income.

De Pere’s ordinance requires individuals who believe that an employer violated the local law to file a complaint with the city administrator within 300 days of the alleged transgression. The details of how complaints will proceed once filed by an individual have yet to be worked out because the ordinance requires the city administrator to adopt policies and regulations as that office sees fit. However, the ordinance does not provide for individuals to receive back pay or other damages that are available under state and federal law. Instead, any complaint that is not resolved by the city administrator will be forwarded to the city attorney’s office for an ordinance enforcement determination.

In the recent past, Republicans who continue to control Wisconsin’s executive and legislative branches of government have demonstrated an interest to preempt and effectively eliminate local ordinances (such as De Pere’s latest law), which create a patchwork of employment regulations in the state. For example, in 2008, Milwaukee enacted a paid sick leave ordinance binding private employers in the city. The Wisconsin legislature quickly responded to this ordinance by enacting Wisconsin Statutes Section 103.10(1m)(a), which made issues of family and medical leave subject to the state government’s exclusive regulation. In light of the growing list of Wisconsin municipalities enacting nondiscrimination ordinances, the Wisconsin legislature may soon act again to eliminate the city and town regulations on this subject matter.

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© 2021, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume VII, Number 334
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About this Author

Mark Johnson, Labor, Employment Attorney, Ogletree Deakins Law Firm
Of Counsel

Mark A. Johnson has a wide range of experience representing businesses in matters involving labor and employment law. Mark has represented employers in hundreds of cases in federal and state courts and before federal and state administrative agencies in Wisconsin and throughout the country. His practice also includes advising employers on how to avoid litigation. Mark is a frequent speaker on topics related to litigation and labor and employment law.

Mark has extensive experience defending employers against claims of employment discrimination and retaliation under federal and state...

414-239-6408
Jesse R. Dill attorney Ogletree Deakins
Attorney

Jesse has a wide range of employment law litigation and compliance counseling experience. He has obtained successful verdicts for his clients in multiple forums, including state circuit courts, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service arbitration proceedings, and administrative hearings before the Equal Rights Division. This litigation experience complements Jesse’s compliance counseling for clients on all aspects of the employment relationship. He regularly assists clients to assess legal liability related to personnel decisions, prepare employment law policies that...

414-239-6410
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