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Wisconsin law repeals punitive, compensatory damages in bias cases

Wisconsin law repeals punitive, compensatory damages in bias cases

MADISON, Wis.—In a move that has been hailed as a victory for employers, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has signed into law a bill that repeals punitive and compensatory damages in discrimination cases under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act.

Under the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which was signed into law by then-Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle in 2009, defendants in discrimination cases could have been penalized between $50,000 and $300,000, depending on their number of employees.

In addition to discrimination cases, the new legislation impacts defendants who are charged with “unfair honesty” or genetic testing. Plaintiffs still will be able to be awarded back pay, costs and attorney fees. They also could file suit in federal court, where they can still seek punitive and compensatory damages, according to the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council in Madison.

The bill, which was supported by numerous business groups, according to the Madison-based Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, was signed into law by the governor on Thursday, but not announced until Friday.

Sherman Joyce, president of the Washington-based American Tort Reform Assn., has praised Gov. Walker as a governor who has “really embraced reform as part of an economic package.”