March 2021 Wisconsin HR Legal Updates

Wisconsin Passes Law Providing Immunity from COVID-19 Liability, With Limited Exceptions

Update Applicable to:
All Employers operating in Wisconsin.

What happened?
On February 25, 2021, Wisconsin enacted a new law designed to help reduce ambiguity regardingCOVID-19-related liability.

What are the details?
The statute (Wis. Stat. § 895.476), which became effective on February 27, 2021, gives certain entities broad immunity from civil liability related to COVID-19 unless they acted recklessly or engaged in wanton conduct or intentional misconduct.. The immunity applies to lawsuits filed after February 27, 2021, asserting claims that accrued on or after March 1, 2020.. The immunity is in addition to any other applicable immunities that may be provided by law.

Entities covered by the statute include partnerships, corporations, associations, governmental entities, tribal governments, tribal entities, or other legal entities.. Covered entities also include schools, institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, and any employers covered by the state unemployment insurance laws.. Employers, business owners, employees, agents, or independent contractors of the entities are also covered, regardless of whether the person is paid or is an unpaid volunteer.. Importantly, the immunity applies not only to employers concerning workplace incidents of COVID-19, but also in many other contexts, including, for example, COVID-19-related lawsuits against long-term care providers (e.g., by their patients and/or patients’ families), retail establishments (e.g., by their customers), and universities (e.g., by their students).

Under the statute, covered entities are immune from civil liability for the death of (or injury to) any individual (or other damages) caused by an act or omission related to novel coronavirus exposure (i.e., exposure to SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 during, or through the performance or provision of, the entity’s functions or services). The immunity does not apply, however, if the challenged act or omission by the entity involves reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct.

You can read more about the statute here.

What do employers need to do?
Wisconsin employers should review the above information and make any needed changes to the workplace in order to take advantage of the benefits provided by this bill.

October 2020 Wisconsin HR Legal Updates

New Separation Notice Required

What happened?
Pursuant to an emergency rule issued by the Department of Workforce development (DWD) employers, starting November 2, 2020, must notify any separated worker about the availability of unemployment insurance benefits.

What are the details?
The rule does not specify what type of separations qualify, so employers are recommended to give the notice to all separated workers. There is no direct monetary penalty for noncompliance, but a worker who does not receive the notice may backdate their unemployment insurance claim.

The DWD has provided suggested language to provide, found here.

What do employers need to do?
Wisconsin employers should use the suggested language provided to create a notice to provide to workers upon separation.