PSC Launches Broadband Forward! Certification Program

Earlier this year, with the support of WIB, state lawmakers created a new program to streamline the local broadband build-out process.

The newly-created Broadband Forward! Community Certification program requires the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) to publish information about permits for broadband network projects and create a process by which the agency may certify a county, city, village or town as a Broadband Forward! community. This certification signals that a local unit of government has taken steps to reduce obstacles to broadband infrastructure investment.

We are pleased to report that this program is up and running. Further details are here. Our hope is that communities located in areas with little or no access to broadband service will pursue this certification.

State Supreme Court Agrees to Review Important UI Benefit Eligibility Case

Three years ago, with the support of WIB, state lawmakers created a new standard for disqualifying claimants from receiving UI benefits. It is referred to as substantial fault.

Substantial fault includes those acts or omissions of an employee over which the employee exercised reasonable control and which violate reasonable requirements of the employer. Substantial fault does not include one or more minor infractions of rules unless an infraction is repeated after the employer warns the employee about the infraction; one or more inadvertent errors made by the employee; or any failure of the employee to perform work because of insufficient skill, ability, or equipment.

After this new standard was put into effect, DWD noted that “application of substantial fault criteria resulted in 4,654 denied cases in 2014, reflecting improved accountability, enhanced UI program integrity and hundreds of thousands of dollars saved for the UI Trust Fund.” All of these are beneficial outcomes for employers.

Changes in the UI benefit eligibility are routinely subject to legal challenge and these disputes are often resolved by the state’s highest court. On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to review Operton v. LIRC. A ruling in this case will likely clarify the scope and application of the substantial fault standard.

The case in question involves a full-time service clerk who worked at a Milwaukee area Walgreens store for a period of twenty months between 2012 and 2014. As a clerk, the employee was required to handle cash transactions. Before being hired, the clerk received a “New Hire Training Checklist” which outlined the steps to be followed when processing cash transactions. The checklist noted that failure to follow the checklist would subject the clerk to “discipline.”

During the clerk’s period of employment, the clerk failed to follow the cash transaction training checklist on eight separate occasions. On seven of the eight occasions, the clerk received either a verbal or written warning. The eighth violation prompted Walgreens to terminate the clerk.

In turn, the ex-clerk filed for UI benefits. Walgreens’ objected to the claim on the grounds that the clerk was “discharged for violation of a reasonable company policy regarding excessive cash discrepancies.”

This legal dispute remains unresolved. The State of Wisconsin has sided with the position taken by Walgreens, but Wisconsin’s Fourth District Court of Appeals has ruled the ex-clerk’s actions were merely inadvertent errors.

Stay tuned for further developments in this case.

State of Emergency Declared in Northwest Wisconsin

Torrential rains and severe storms that rolled through northwest Wisconsin early last week prompted Governor Walker to declare a State of Emergency in Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Price, Sawyer and Washburn counties.

State emergency management officials, in close consultation with local elected officials, have completed their initial assessment of the damages to private and public property. Storm-related damage to homes and businesses exceeds $2.3 million and it will cost at least $31 million to repair area roads and bridges.

Governor Walker has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct its own assessment of damages to determine the extent to which federal aid will be available to assist homeowners, businesses and local communities. Hopefully, that work will begin soon.

In conjunction with these activities, resources are now available to meet the most pressing needs of local residents and businesses.

1. The American Red Cross has established a dedicated phone number for individuals with a primary residence that has suffered major
damage or has been destroyed. That hotline number is 715-563-6188.

2. If your business suffered storm damage, the Wisconsin Department of Administration is working with local communities to make Community
Development Block Grant Emergency Assistance Program funds available. Please contact your local government for further details.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) continues to assess roadways for damage and detour routes as necessary. For up-to-date closures and detour information visit www.511wi.gov, download the free mobile app or follow @511WI on Twitter.

We sincerely hope you find this e-publication to be a valuable member service. Let us know what you think and how we can make it better by contacting the editor, Brian Dake, at bdake@wibiz.org.

Sincerely,

John Gard
Wisconsin Independent Businesses