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Walker signs pay progression, job discrimination award laws

A pay progression plan for prosecutors and limitations on plaintiff recovery in employment discrimination cases are now law after Gov. Scott Walker signed the separate proposals Thursday.

Senate Bill 394 established a 17-step, merit-based system to provide assistant district attorneys the opportunity for annual raises, eliminated in 2002, as a way to retain prosecutors.

Assistant prosecutors with at least one year of continuous service as of July 1, 2013, are eligible for a pay bump to the level immediately above their current salary. Newer assistant district attorneys can get raises after serving at least 12 months.

Each July, prosecutors would be eligible for additional raises, at the discretion of their supervisor, according to the law.

While Walker signed the plan into law, the raises are far from certain, as the money needed for the annual pay progression still needs to be allocated during the next state budget cycle.

According to the fiscal estimates for SB 394 from the Wisconsin Department of Administration and the Wisconsin Office of State Employment Relations, the annual cost to implement pay progression as of July 1, 2013, would be between $950,000 and $1 million.

• A more controversial bill among attorneys signed Thursday by Walker eliminated compensatory and punitive damages for acts of employment discrimination or unfair honesty or genetic testing.

Senate Bill 202 repealed the law signed by Gov. Jim Doyle in 2009 that created a range of compensatory and punitive awards for discrimination cases. Those included $50,000 for defendants with 100 or fewer employees, $100,000 for defendants with 101 to 200 employees, $200,000 for defendants with 201 to 500 employees, and $300,000 for defendants with more than 500 employees.

Critics of the law have said the change will lead to an influx of federal cases, but attorneys for employers argued that the new law safeguards business owners against exorbitant verdicts.

The law change still allows individuals who file a complaint with the Department of Workforce Development to seek reinstatement, back pay and attorneys’ fees.

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