Capitol Week-in-Review – August 31, 2017

DWD Seeks Greater Conformity between Federal and State Employment-Related Regulations

Last Monday, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) – the state agency which oversees employment-related regulations – announced two new initiatives to bring greater conformity between the federal and state government employment-related regulations.

The first initiative will modify and update state regulations relating to hours of work and overtime pay to conform to the standards specified by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and align state and federal policies in the following areas:

  • Meal Periods – under current state regulations, employers are required to pay employees for on-duty meal periods but the regulations do not address off-duty meal periods. The DWD proposal would clarify that an off-duty meal period of at least 30 minutes is not paid time, regardless if the employee is required to stay on the premises or allowed to leave premises.
  • Employee Exemptions for Overtime Pay – Under current state regulations, there are exemptions for certain employees relating to overtime pay requirements. The DWD proposal specifies that the standards for determining overtime exemptions for executive, administrative and professional employees shall be the same as the current standards incorporated under the FLSA.
  • Determining Applicability of Overtime Requirements – the DWD proposal will incorporate standards followed under FLSA for determining the applicability of overtime requirements to an employee compensated on a salary basis.

The second initiative will modify and replace outdated state regulations related to the employment of minors to conform to the standards specified by the FLSA and align state and federal policies. More specifically, the DWD proposal:

  • Expand prohibitions related to logging and sawmills to include forest fire fighting.
  • Incorporate provisions of FLSA that allow minors, under specified conditions, to use power-driven equipment to process wood products.
  • Clarify that the prohibition on use of Power-Driven Hoisting Equipment includes tending, riding upon, working from, repairing, servicing, or disassembling an elevator, crane, derrick, manlift, hoist, or high-lift truck.
  • Expand the definitions of “high-lift truck” to include backhoes, front-end loaders, and similar pieces of equipment.
  • Clarify that the Meat Processing prohibitions include work in poultry slaughtering establishments.
  • Allow minors to operate portable countertop mixers similar to those used in private homes.
  • Allow minors to operate certain pizza-dough rollers under certain conditions.
  • Clarify that use of all balers and compactors is prohibited, including those not designed or used to process paper; clarifies the exemption that allows minors to load only certain scrap paper balers and paper box compactors.
  • Clarify that chain saws, reciprocating saws, wood chippers, and abrasive cutting discs are prohibited to all minors.
  • Codify a U.S. Department of Labor enforcement position that allows minors to work as lifeguards, swimming instructors and aides at age 15 if they possess safety certification.
  • Clarify that minors aged 16 and 17 may operate skid-steers and similar lifts in agricultural employment.
  • Permit minors to operate a key-cutting machine if it has a properly equipped and functioning key saw guard.

We are supportive of these two initiatives. Greater conformity between federal and state policies reduces compliance costs, confusion and red-tape for small employers.

The DWD will be working on the details of these proposed changes over the next few months. We will be monitoring this effort. Before any of these proposed changes can go into effect they must be approved by the Governor and the Wisconsin State Legislature.

Mark Your Calendar for the Governor’s 2017 Small Business Summit

Registration is now open for the Governor’s 2017 Small Business Summit. This day-long annual event provides Wisconsin small business owners with the opportunity to discuss topics of interest and concern with Governor Walker, Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch and state government agency leaders.

The event details are as follows:

When:    Tuesday, September 26, 2017; 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Where:   Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center; 1100 Imperial Avenue, Rothschild, Wisconsin

The event registration deadline is September 15 and seating is limited. Interested members can go here to learn more about the meeting as well as register for the event.

DWD to Retire Automated Telephone System for UI Weekly Claim Filing

Beginning on August 30, the DWD will continue the transition to online services by retiring the 1990’s-era automated telephone system for unemployment insurance (UI) weekly claims.

According to the DWD, more than 90% of all UI claimants file for weekly benefits online. Claimants unable to use weekly claim online services can still call the automated telephone system at 414-438-5395 or 608-261-9990.