Wisconsin Bill Would Block Compensatory and Punitive Damages in Employment Cases

March 02, 2012

As Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker prepares for a recall battle generated by organized labor, a bill sent to him by the legislature will also put him in the crosshairs of the state's plaintiff's bar.  The measure (S.B. 202), which he is expected to sign, would bar compensatory or punitive damage awards for discrimination claims under state law.  Currently, under a law passed in 2009, damages under Wisconsin discrimination laws are similar to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, with recovery of punitive and compensatory damages for employment discrimination capped at $300,000.  The bill is being attacked by several organizations advocating on behalf of women, who are characterizing it as another assault on women's health and economic security by the hard-line class of Republicans elected in 2010.  “I think people will look back at this session of the assembly as one of the most damaging in the state's history,’’ commented Nicole Safar, policy director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.  “It will take years to clean up the poor policies and sloppily written laws.  S.B. 202 fits in with Gov. Walker's and his Republican allies' merciless assault on the basic rights of women and people in the workplace.’’  A spokesman for the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Association countered: “At a time when Wisconsin is slowly coming out of a prolonged economic downturn, the last thing employers can afford are more incentives for plaintiffs' attorneys to sue businesses."