Filing a Wage and Hour Claim – Wisconsin

Does Wisconsin have state overtime laws that are different from federal law?

Like federal law, Wisconsin law requires employers to pay employees one and one half times their regular hourly wage for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a given week. Wisconsin’s overtime law generally applies only to private sector employees; state and local employees are covered by the federal overtime requirements. Anyone who is not covered by the state’s minimum wage law is also not covered by the state’s overtime law. In addition, the following employee’s who are covered by the state’s minimum wage law are not covered by the state’s overtime law:

  • Persons employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity (as defined by law)
  • Outside salespersons
  • Higher paid commission employees of retail and service establishments 50% of whose earnings come from commission and who earn at least 150% of the minimum wage for all hours worked
  • Certain drivers, drivers’ helpers, loaders, or mechanics of a motor carrier or private carrier
  • Taxi cab drivers
  • Indentured apprentices devoting time to classroom instruction
  • Parts persons, salespersons, service managers, service writers, or mechanics selling or servicing automobiles, trucks, farm implements, trailers, boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles, other recreational vehicles or aircraft, when employed by a non-manufacturing establishment primarily engaged in selling such vehicles to ultimate purchasers
  • Employees of seasonal amusement and recreation establishments that do not operate for more than seven months of the year or which earn the vast majority of their profits in a six-month period
  • Agricultural workers
  • Motion picture theater employees
  • Certain employees of hospitals and other institutions which care for the sick, the aged, the mentally ill or persons with developmental disabilities who reside on the premises, if they have an agreement with their employers
  • Local delivery persons paid on the basis of trip rates or delivery plans that have the purpose and effect of reducing their hours
  • Employees of funeral establishments
  • Certain forestry and lumber workers in operations where no more than eight persons are employed
  • Highly paid employees employed in the computer industry

Does Wisconsin have a minimum wage that is different from federal law?

Wisconsin’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Tipped employees may be paid as little as $2.33 per hour, as long as their tips suffice to bring them up to the minimum wage. This also applies to tipped minor employees.

“Opportunity employees,” or those who are under the age of 20 and still in the first 90 consecutive days of employment, may be paid at a lower rate of $5.90 per hour. Minor employees (under 18) may not otherwise be paid at a lower rate. There are also minimum wage provisions for camp counselors and golf caddies. Employers may take deductions for meals and lodging.

The following employees are not covered by Wisconsin’s minimum wage provision:

  • Any individual engaged in the house-to-house delivery of newspapers to the consumer or engaged in direct retail sale to the consumer.
  • Persons acting as a real estate agent or as a real estate salesperson, if that individual is only paid by commission.
  • Any individual engaged in performing services for the state or local government if that individual is an elective officer, is on the personal staff of an elective officer, other than a member of the legislature, is appointed by an elective officer to serve on a policymaking level, or is an immediate adviser to an elective officer with respect to the constitutional or legal powers of the elective officer’s office.

This is much broader than the federal provision, and so many employees who would not be covered by the federal minimum wage are covered by Wisconsin’s minimum. For example, most agricultural workers must be paid the minimum wage. For more information, visit Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development.

Do any cities or counties in Wisconsin have a minimum wage that is different from state or federal law?

No. In 2005, Wisconsin passed a law that stops any cities or counties in the state from passing their own minimum wage laws. Therefore, the state minimum wage applies to all municipalities.

Does Wisconsin have meal and rest break requirements, unlike federal law?

Employees under 18 must be provided a 30-minute meal break for every shift greater than six hours in duration; this break does not have to be paid. Agricultural migrant workers must also be provided with a 30-minute break for each six-hour continuous shift, unless the shift can be completed within one more hour. Migrant workers who are not only employed in agriculture must be given a rest period of at least 10 minutes for each continuous five-hour shift.

Employers are not required to provide any other breaks. Meal or rest breaks shorter than 30 minutes must be paid if they are provided. Meal breaks during which the employee is not free to leave the premises must also be paid.

How do I file a wage/hour or labor standards claim in Wisconsin?

If your employer owes you wages, you can file a labor standards complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Before filing the form, you must request the wages from your employer and wait six days after you are owed your wages. The Department will attempt to resolve the problem and, if that does not work, will refer the case to a local district attorney for enforcement or will take the case to court itself.

What are my time deadlines?

Do not delay in contacting the Department of Workforce Development to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of wage-and-hour violations must be filed. In order for the Department to act on your behalf, you must file your claim within two years of the date on which your wages were owed. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. It may be helpful to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, but it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your claim with the Department.

How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Wisconsin?

Instead of filing a claim with the Department of Workforce Development, you may bring a lawsuit in court to recover your unpaid wages. In addition to awarding you your back wages, the court may also require your employer to pay your litigation costs and attorneys’ fees. There is a statute of limitations of two years for this kind of lawsuit.

State Labor Agency

Madison office, physical location:
DWD Equal Rights Division
201 E. Washington Ave.
Room A100
Madison, WI, 53703
Phone: (608) 266-6860
TTY: (608) 264-8752
Fax: (608) 267-4592

Madison mailing address:
DWD Equal Rights Division
P.O. Box 8928
Madison, WI, 53703-8928

Milwaukee Office:
DWD Equal Rights Division
819 N. 6th St.
Room 723
Milwaukee, WI 53203
Phone: (414) 227-4384
TTY: (414) 227-4081
Fax: (414) 227-4084

Milwaukee mailing address:
DWD Equal Rights Division
P.O. Box 7997
Madison, WI, 53703-7997

For more contact information visit the Equal Rights Division website.