2015-2016 Wisconsin Legislature Update Part 2 

This week, our legislative update continues with three more additions to the list of new proposals. In this post, we’ll also tackle two of the most controversial topics taken up by the Wisconsin legislature. One of these, popularly titled “right to work” legislation, passed earlier this year. The other, requiring unemployment benefit recipients to undergo drug testing, appears well on its way to become the latest workplace law.

Assembly Bill 192 – Unemployment Insurance Drug Testing

Perhaps one of the most controversial proposals, AB192 would require certain applicants for unemployment insurance benefits to submit to drug testing to receive payments. In its current form, AB192 would require testing from those who were terminated for unlawful use of controlled substances or those individuals looking for suitable work in an occupation that regularly conducts drug testing. However, those occupations would be determined by the federal Department of Labor, which has yet to finalize the list of jobs to which this requirement may apply.

Even if passed, AB192 may face an additional hurdle of federal law. Late in 2013, a Florida federal district court found that a state law requiring recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits to submit to drug testing violated the Fourth Amendment restriction against unreasonable searches. Such an argument may significantly affect any Wisconsin law passed imposing similar requirements on unemployment benefit recipients. However, the Florida law broadly affected all recipients in contrast with the more-limited Wisconsin proposal.

The Department of Workforce Development’s Fiscal Estimate, received May 6, 2015, foresees $2.862 million in one-time costs to implement the proposal in its current form and $1.059 million in annual costs going forward. AB192 was read its third and final time in the Assembly and passed on May 13, 2015. Next, the Wisconsin Senate will take up the bill. With seemingly strong support of legislative Republicans, passage of AB192 is likely.

Assembly Bill 118 – Day of Rest Reform

Under Wisconsin’s current “one day of rest in seven” law, employees of factory or mercantile establishments, with some exceptions, must receive one day off every seven consecutive days. Employers who violate this law are subject to fines up to $100 for each offense. AB 118 would add an exception to this law so that an employee can voluntarily waive this legal requirement. Under the proposal, an employee must provide this waiver in writing by stating he or she voluntarily chooses to work without at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in 7 consecutive days.

AB 118 was introduced on March 27, 2015, and immediately referred to the Committee on Labor, where it currently remains.

2015 Wisconsin Act 1

Of course, most attention this legislative session has been dedicated to a bill that already passed into law. On March 10, 2015, Wisconsin became the latest “right to work” state with the publication of 2015 Wisconsin Act 1. This law prohibits employers from including as part of a collective bargaining agreement a term that requires all employees to become members of a union. Local publications have criticized the law for wanting evidence of any positive economic outcome, while at the same time one Milwaukee area CEO claimed the legislation was necessary to preserve area jobs. Regardless, this legislative session began with passage of a significant piece of workplace legislation.