Wisconsin Wage and Hour Laws

Wisconsin protects its employees with labor laws that cover wages and hours, as well as other important aspects of working. Federal laws often dictate a minimum amount or standard that states can't drop below, such as the federal minimum wage. If a state wants, it can provide greater protections for its residents, such as mandatory employee meal breaks.

The following table details the main provisions of Wisconsin's wage and hour laws.

Code Sections

Wisconsin Statutes Chapters 103: Employment Regulations, 104: Minimum Wage Law, 109: Wage Payments, Claims, and Collections, and 111: Employment Relations

Wisconsin Administrative Code, Department of Workforce Development (DWD), Chapters 270-279: Labor Standards

Minimum Wage

$7.25 per hour (current as of October 2014)

Opportunity Employee Wage

Wisconsin employers can hire youth under 20 and pay a lower wage for the first 90 days of work. This rate is $5.90 per hour.

Tipped Workers' Minimum Wage

An employer must pay $2.33 per hour to a tipped worker, with tips covering the rest up to minimum wage. For opportunity tipped workers, it's only $2.13 per hour minimum.

Prevailing Wage Minimum

Construction workers for public works projects in Wisconsin have special, higher minimum wages called the "prevailing wage" depending on the type of skilled trade. The rate is based on an annual project survey.

Overtime Pay

If an employee works over 40 hours in a week, he or she must get "overtime" of at least 1.5 time of the regular pay. But this law doesn't apply to everyone, including domestic workers hired by households or non-profit employees.

Meals & Breaks

Wisconsin law doesn't require employers to provide adult employees (over 18) any specific type of break. However, the Department of Workforce Development recommends employers provide meal breaks. Employees under 18 who work longer than six hours must receive one 30-minute meal break.

Leave

Wisconsin doesn't require employers to pay for time off, such as sick leave or holidays. When Milwaukee passed a paid sick leave law in 2008, it was ruled invalid as state law trumped it. However, there’s a state law that requires "one day rest in seven," meaning many employees must get one 24-hour period off each calendar week. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to many groups, such as janitors, dairy employees, emergency workers, mill superintendents, etc.

Also, eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks off without pay each year for the birth or adoption of a baby, to care for an ill family member, or for personal medical problems under the federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Child Labor Laws

Teens 14 or 15 years old can work eight hours daily and 40 hours weekly during the summer or three hours daily and 18 hours weekly during the school year. They’re also limited to working between 7 am and 7 pm or up to 9 pm during the summer.

In comparison, 16 and 17 year olds only can't be required to work during school hours, must be provided a meal break, and if they work after 11 pm, they must be given eight hours of rest before the start of their next shift.

Unions and Right to Work

Wisconsin doesn't have a "right to work" law that regulates union membership requirements. However, state employees are permitted to opt out of being a union member.

Enforcement Agency

The Labor Standards Bureau takes complaints on many different types of employee issues, including plant closings/mass layoffs, ending health care benefits, prevailing wages, wage claims (i.e. you haven't been paid all the wages you’re due), and general labor standards (such as overtime, minimum wage, child labor, etc).

Penalties

Employers who break Wisconsin wage and hour laws can be subject to many different criminal, civil, and administrative penalties, some examples include:

  • Wage Claim Penalties: An employer may owe a penalty of 50% or 100% of the wages that were due and weren’t paid. Also, failing to pay wages due or falsely denying the amount of wages due to defraud the employee can be penalized by up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail. The Department of Workforce Development can audit payroll records to determine if an employer may owe other employees back wages, after a wage claim was found valid.
  • Child Labor Violation Penalties: If an employer hires a child in street trades (selling or collecting any goods or newspapers, or shining shoes in public places or door-to-door) against the law or hinders his or her school attendance can have to pay $25 to $1,000 for each day for the first offense or $250 to $5,000 for each day or be imprisoned for up to 30 days for a second or subsequent violation within five years. In addition, the employer owes the minor the wages and twice the regular rate of pay as liquidated damages for all hours worked in violation of the law.
    • Parents who permit their minor child to be employed in violation of the street trade laws can be fined $10 to $250 for the first offense or $25 to 1,000 each day for the second or subsequent offense.
  • Seats for Employees: Employers in manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile industries must provide suitable seats for employees. If not, they can be fined $10-$30 per offense.

Note: State laws change frequently -- it's important to verify any laws you’re researching.

Related Resources

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