Wisconsin Employment Lawyer, Civil Rights Attorney, and Mediator
As a Wisconsin employment lawyer and civil rights attorney, I focus on protecting people's civil rights and liberties in a variety of contexts – such as employment. I advise and advocate for those who seek justice and fairness – including employees, employers, discrimination victims, and businesses. As a Wisconsin mediator, I seek to help parties resolve their disputes.
Wisconsin's Legal Landscape
Wisconsin's legal landscape is characterized by a robust infrastructure, a commitment to fair and efficient administration of justice, and a diverse community of legal professionals dedicated to upholding the law.
Wisconsin Laws Regarding Employment and Civil Rights
A broad array of Wisconsin employment laws and civil rights protections play a significant role in the state's legal landscape, covering areas such as discrimination, police misconduct, sexual harassment, and retaliation. For example, a comprehensive range of Wisconsin and U.S. federal laws govern the rights and responsibilities of both employers and employees, ensuring a fair workplace, including Wisconsin-specific regulations that cover wage and hour matters, whistleblowers, workplace safety, arrest and conviction records, and much more.
Wisconsin's State Judicial System
Wisconsin's judicial system is organized into four levels: Municipal Courts, Circuit Courts, the Court of Appeals, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Municipal Courts are the most local and handle ordinance violations, traffic violations, and misdemeanors.
Circuit Courts are the major trial courts in the state where cases commence. These courts handle civil, criminal, family, probate, and juvenile matters.
The Court of Appeals reviews decisions of the circuit courts in appellate cases, making it the state's intermediate appellate court.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court is the highest appellate court and last resort in the state. It hears appeals from the Court of Appeals and regulates the practice of law in the state.
Federal Courts in Wisconsin
The federal courts in Wisconsin fall under the Seventh Circuit of the United States federal court system. They consist of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Additionally, the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts in Wisconsin handle bankruptcy matters in both federal districts. Here's a brief description of each of these courts:
U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin: The U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin are the federal trial courts that have jurisdiction over the state of Wisconsin. They hear both civil and criminal cases that arise under federal law or involve federal statutes, treaties, or the U.S. Constitution. The District Courts have courthouses located throughout the state, although they predominantly sit in Madison and Milwaukee.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is the federal appellate court that reviews decisions of the U.S. District Courts within its circuit, which includes Wisconsin. It hears appeals from the district courts located in three states: Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. The Seventh's Circuit's decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. The court's headquarters are in Chicago, Illinois, but it hears cases in various locations within the circuit -- including Madison and Milwaukee.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Wisconsin: The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin are federal courts that handle all bankruptcy matters. The purpose of the bankruptcy system is to give individuals and businesses a fresh start when they become insolvent.
State Agencies in Wisconsin
There are several state agencies in Wisconsin that have specific mandates to enforce laws involving employment and civil rights regulations. These agencies provide resources and avenues of complaint for individuals who believe their rights have been violated, and they may take enforcement action against those who violate the law. These include:
Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD): This agency oversees various aspects of employment in the state, including unemployment insurance, equal rights enforcement, worker's compensation, and employment and training services. The Equal Rights Division of DWD enforces laws related to discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC): WERC oversees collective bargaining issues, including dispute resolution and enforcement of labor laws related to public sector employees.
Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS): This department oversees licensing for various professions and businesses in the state, and it also enforces building and safety codes. Some employment issues may fall under its purview, particularly if they relate to licensing or professional conduct.
Office of State Employment Relations (OSER): This office manages the state's civil service system, including hiring practices, working conditions, and employee-management relations for state employees.
Federal Agencies in Wisconsin
In addition to the state agencies, several federal agencies play crucial roles in enforcing employment and civil rights laws in Wisconsin:
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee based on various factors, including race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL): The DOL enforces a variety of federal labor and employment laws, including those related to wages and hours, workplace safety and health, employee benefits, and more.
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB): The NLRB enforces the National Labor Relations Act, which protects employees' rights to organize and bargain collectively with their employers, and to engage in other protected concerted activity or to refrain from engaging in any of the above activity.
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) - Civil Rights Division: This federal agency enforces federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status, and national origin.
State Bar of Wisconsin
The State Bar of Wisconsin plays a significant role in the legal landscape. It provides resources for both legal professionals and the public, offering continuing education, legal publications, and networking opportunities for its members.
Legal Education and Practice
Wisconsin is home to two law schools: The University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison and Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee. These institutions contribute a steady stream of law graduates entering various fields of law practice within the state.
The state's lawyers offer expertise in all areas of law, serving in capacities such as private practice attorneys, corporate counsel, public defenders, prosecutors, judges, and legal aid providers.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (Mediation and Arbitration)
Wisconsin, like many other states, actively encourages the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), including mediation and arbitration, as a means to settle disputes out of court.