NEWS


APRIL 1, 2011

CITY OF MADISON EMPLOYEES FILE SUIT
DECLARING ACT 10 “BUDGET REPAIR BILL” UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Suit Alleges Act Violates Equal Protection and Freedom of Speech and Association

Yesterday, through their attorneys, Ehlke, Bero-Lehmann & Lounsbury, S.C., several labor unions representing employees of the City of Madison and nearby municipalities filed in Dane County Circuit Court the first legal challenge to the substance of the so-called “Budget Repair Bill.”

The Plaintiffs in the case include Laborers Local 236, Firefighters Local 311, AFSCME Local 60 and an individually named plaintiff, Jamie O’Brien, who is a member of the Laborers Union. The suit was brought against both the State of Wisconsin and Governor Scott Walker. Circuit Court Judge Peter Anderson has been assigned to the case.

In the lawsuit, the Plaintiffs request that the court find Act 10 unconstitutional and therefore declare it null and void. The lawsuit asserts that the Act impermissibly infringes on employees’ constitutionally protected rights to equal protection and freedom of speech and association.

EQUAL PROTECTION:

The lawsuit asserts that many of the limitations imposed on employees who are in a unions do not apply to employees who are not in a union. It also treats members of some unions differently than members of other unions.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND ASSOCIATION:

The lawsuit further alleges that Act 10 imposes an impermissible burden on municipal employees’ ability to exercise their constitutional right to associate and assemble, and to express their views in concert with one another, and to petition their State and local governments regarding matters that are of mutual concern to them.

STATEMENT ON THIS LAWSUIT:

Plaintiffs’ attorney, Bruce Ehlke, said, “Wisconsin has a long and admirable history of encouraging labor and management peace through collective bargaining. Even before public sector unions were granted the statutory right to bargain, public employers and employees in fact engaged in an early form of collective bargaining known as “meet and confer. This Act sets Wisconsin’s labor relations back 80 years.

“Employers in Wisconsin have long benefitted from the certainty and stability afforded to them through collective bargaining agreements. During the last several weeks, the support of public employers for collective bargaining has become obvious, as municipalities across the state have scrambled to get new and extended agreements into effect before the enactment of this Act, in order to preserve their ability to operate with a full contract in place for as long as possible.

“Regardless of how individuals feel about the level of compensation and benefits received by public sector employees, it is without a doubt that those employees, citizens of our state, are entitled to equal protection and freedom of association, and this Act improperly attempts to strip public sector workers of those rights.”


FEBRUARY 7, 2011

CITY EMPLOYEES WIN OVERTIME CASE

MONROE, WI    An arbitrator has found with the Union for the City of Monroe Street Department, in response to a grievance filed by the Union, AFSCME Local 3760, alleging that the City had violated the collective bargaining agreement when it failed to pay Street Department employees premium pay for hours worked outside of their regularly scheduled shift.

The grievance involved the payment of premium pay for Street Department employees called in early to plow snow in February 2009. The contract required, and the City’s practice had been, to pay employees time and a half for hours worked outside of their regular shift, when they were called in early to plow snow. In Feburary, 2009, however, the City decided on its own that it would no longer pay premium pay for out of shift hours, even though it had not negotiated a change to the contract.

The Union grieved the City’s violation of the contract. A hearing was held in September, 2010, during which the Union was represented by Monroe attorney Katy Lounsbury. The arbitrator, in a decision issued January 31, 2011, agreed with the union, finding that: “The Employer violated the collective bargaining agreement when it did not pay the grievants overtime for the time worked prior to 7:00 a.m.”


APRIL 30, 2010

LIRC Confirms La Crosse School District Employee’s Award
of Over $350,000.00 in Worker’s Compensation Benefits.

When La Crosse School District Employee, Mark Schuttenhelm, strained his back at work, he had no idea what lay in store for him. Several weeks after his work injury, Schuttenehelm’s back was getting worse, not better. It was discovered that the area of his spine contingent to his work injury had become infected with antibiotic resistant staphylococcus. Schuttenehelm underwent two major surgeries, including a spinal fusion, and missed over a year of work.

The Worker’s Compensation carrier refused to pay Schuttenhelm any benefits stating that the work injury did not cause the infection. Schuttenhelm retained Madison, Wisconsin Worker's Compensation attorney Colleen-Bero Lehmann.

Schuttenehlm and his Attorney, Colleen Bero-Lehmann, enlisted the help of two infectious disease specialists to prove that the work injury was the cause of infection. At hearing the two infectious disease specialists filed a report stating that the work injury had created a place for the infecting bacteria to colonize thus causing the infection. The Administrative Law Judge Nia Trammell found in Schuttenehlm’s favor and ordered the School District to pay over $350,000.00 in lost wages, medical expenses and permanent disability.

The School District appealed the ALJ’s Decision and Order to the Labor and Industry Review Commission. On April 27, 2010, the Labor and Industry Review Commission unanimously upheld ALJ Trammell’s Decision and Order.

Schuttenhelm was represented in this matter by Attorney Colleen Bero-Lehmann from the law firm of Ehlke, Bero-Lehmann & Lounsbury, S.C. in Madison, Wisconsin.


OCTOBER 10, 2009

WISCONSIN LABOR AND INDUSTRY REVIEW COMMISSION
AFFIRMS DECISION AGAINST THE TOWN OF ROME POLICE DEPARMENT

Wisconsin’s Labor and Industry Review Commission affirmed the decision of the Department of Workforce Development, finding that the Town of Rome retaliated against a female police officer because she had complained of gender discrimination. The Town of Rome was ordered to reinstate Officer Jolene Orlowski, to pay all of her lost wages, and her attorney fees.

The full decision can be found at: http://www.dwd.state.wi.us/lirc/erdecsns/1145.htm

Orlowski is represented in this matter by Madison Wisconsin employment attorney Katy Lounsbury of the law firm Ehlke, Bero-Lehmann & Lounsbury, with offices in Madison, Wisconsin and Monroe, Wisconsin.


OCTOBER 7, 2009

EEOC CHARGE AGAINST TOWN OF ROME POLICE DEPARTMENT FORWARDED TO U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has forwarded a charge of retaliation by the Town of Rome Police Department, in Adams County, Wisconsin, to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In 2006, former Town of Rome police officer, Jolene Orlowski filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division (ERD) and the U.S. EEOC, alleging that the Town of Rome discharged Orlowski from employment as retaliation because she had complained of gender discrimination. Orlowski was the only female officer at the time.

A two day hearing was held in 2007, and in August, 2008, Judge John Brown, of the Wisconsin ERD, found that the Town’s termination of Orwloski’s employment was motivated by her opposition to discrimination. The ERD ordered the Town to reinstate Orlowski, and to pay all back wages, attorney fees, and 12% interest. The Town refused and, instead, appealed the ERD decision.

On February 3, 2009, the U.S. EEOC independently determined that the Town of Rome Police Department had engaged in unlawful retaliation of Orlowski. The EEOC attempted conciliation efforts, but the Town refused. As a result, on August 19, 2009, the EEOC issued the following notice:

"Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended provides that only the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) may sue a state or local government agency on behalf of the federal government. Therefore, your case has been forwarded to the DOJ."

Orlowski is represented by Madison labor and employment attorney, Katy Lounsbury, of Ehlke, Bero-Lehmann & Lounsbury, S.C.


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