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Lawmakers considering bill to increase statute of limitations on unpaid-wage claims

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//June 7, 2019//

Lawmakers considering bill to increase statute of limitations on unpaid-wage claims

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//June 7, 2019//

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Here’s the latest on what’s pending before various committees in the Wisconsin legislature. Among the proposals of interest are ones calling for changes to the state’s service requirements for civil cases, the addition of judge positions to several counties and changes to the rules governing unpaid wage claims.

Budget

The state’s budget-writing committee met on May 9 and approved a motion deleting dozens of proposals from Gov. Tony Evers’ draft budget. The committee, among other things, deleted a proposal that would have attached the Labor and Industry Review Commission to the state Department of Workforce Development. The commission is an independent body that reviews disputes over jobless benefits and workers’ compensation, as well as claims involving employment discrimination.

Bills out of committee

Committees recently gave their blessing both to proposed legislation involving service requirements in civil lawsuits and a bill that would raise the age at which people are prohibited from operating snowmobiles while intoxicated.

Assembly Bill 58 would change how a notice of claim against state employees or agencies must be served. Current law requires a person bringing an action against a state employee, agency or agent to send written notice of the action, using certified mail, to the state attorney general at his or her office in the state Capitol. AB 58 would allow the AG also to be served in person.

Separately, AB 59 would allow papers and other pleadings to be served by email, as long as all the parties involved consented and provided an email address. In doing so, the legislation would codify current court practices, which have changed following the adoption of mandatory electronic filing in state trial courts.

Lawmakers in the Assembly Committee on Judiciary held a public hearing on both bills in March, and voted in April to recommend them for adoption.

Meanwhile, AB7 would prohibit any intoxicated person under the age of 21 from operating a snow mobile. Current law prohibits an intoxicated person under the age of 19 from operating a snow mobile.

The Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety heard public testimony in March on the proposal and voted 6-2 on May 8 in favor of the bill.

All three bills have yet to be assigned for a vote before the full Assembly.

Bills in committee

The following bills are pending in committee:

SB 41 would establish a civil cause action for the financial exploitation of “vulnerable persons,” who are defined in the proposal as being people who are “elderly, financially incapable, incapacitated, or those with a disability who are susceptible to force, threat, duress, coercion, persuasion, or physical or emotional injury because of a physical or mental impairment.” The proposal would require a court to award damages, attorney fees and reasonable fees for services such as those of a guardian ad litem.

SB 41 was introduced in February and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety but has not yet been scheduled for a public hearing.

American Family Insurance, the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council and the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance have all registered in opposition to the bill.

SB 148 and AB 153 call for adding circuit-court branches to each of these counties starting on August 1, 2020: Adams, Calumet, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marathon, Sawyer and Vilas.

The identical proposals have been referred to the Assembly Committee on Judiciary and the Senate Committee on Insurance, Financial Services, Government Oversight and Courts. However, neither has been scheduled for a public hearing.

AB 40 and SB 40 would make various changes to the laws governing claims of unpaid wages, including increasing the statute of limitations from two years to four years and letting other people make claims both in court or with the state Department of Workforce Development on behalf of employees.

The bills, which were introduced in February, have been assigned to the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform and the Assembly Committee on Labor and Integrated Employment.

Neither version of the bill has been put to a public hearing.

AB 116 would, among other things, set up a separate civil action for claims involving abusive work settings. Injured employees would have to file actions within a year of the last act that constitutes an “unlawful employment practice,” according to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis.

AB 116 was introduced in March and has been assigned to the Assembly and Senate labor committees. It has yet to receive a public hearing, though. So far, only the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers has registered in favor of the proposal.

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