Wisconsin ADA laws & safety compliance analysis

Wisconsin ADA: What you need to know

Comparison: State vs. Federal

The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate on the basis of disability (WI Gen. Stat. Sec. 111.31 et seq.). The Act covers all private and public employers, regardless of size. The Act also prohibits employers from contributing a lesser amount to the fringe benefits, including life or disability insurance coverage, of any employee because of the employee's disability (WI Gen. Stat. Sec. 111.34).

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Separate state laws prohibit state contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment on the basis of a handicap, physical condition, or developmental disability (WI Gen. Stat. Sec. 16.765) and prohibit discrimination in state employment on the basis of disability (WI Gen. Stat. Sec. 230.18).

State Requirements
'Disability' Defined

The term "disability" means:

  • A physical or mental impairment that makes achievement unusually difficult or limits an individual's capacity to work
  • A record of having had such an impairment
  • Being perceived as having such an impairment

Federal law compared. Although the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has similar provisions to the state law, amendments changed the ADA's definition of a "regarded as" disability. Under the amended ADA, a person is regarded as having an ADA disability if he or she is subjected to an adverse employment action (e.g., demotion or firing) because of an actual or perceived impairment. The impairment does not have to substantially limit a major life activity in order to meet the definition of a "regarded as" disability.

The courts in Wisconsin are not bound by cases decided under the ADA when interpreting disability discrimination cases brought under state law. However, employers with 15 ...

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