Wisconsin’s Fair Employment Law
State of Wisconsin
Department of Workforce Development
Equal Rights Division
Civil Rights Bureau
#5 in a Series
Fair Employment Law and Complaint Process
Fair Employment Law
What is the law’s purpose
The purpose of the law is to protect the rights of people to employment free of unlawful discrimination.
It is unlawful, for public and private employers, employment agencies, licensing agencies, and unions, to
refuse to hire, to discharge, or other-wise discriminate in any term or condition of work, because of a
person’s protected class.
• The protected classes are shown in the chart on the right. The fair employment law is contained in
sections 111.31-111.395, of Wisconsin Statutes.
It is important to note that unfair treatment is not necessarily unlawful. Certain employment actions
may be harsh, insensitive, or unjust. But, they do not become unlawful under the above law unless an
adverse action is taken, at least in part, because of a person’s protected class.
What protections are provided?
Generally, it is unlawful to treat people less favorably than others because of their protected class. The law
prohibits discrimination in employment-related actions such as:
yRecruitment and hiring
yLeave or benefits
yLicensing or union membership
yLay-off and firing
yOther employment related actions
Other prohibited practices are:
• Retaliation against persons who assert their rights under the fair employment law, the family, and medical
leave law and other labor standards laws.
• Harassment on the job because of a person’s sex or because of their particular protected class.
• Engaging in most types of Genetic Testing or giving an improper Honesty Test.
Are there any exceptions under the law?
Yes, there are times when an employer may “legally” discriminate even though a person may otherwise be
protected under the law. While legal exceptions are very limited and uncommon,