Bill Advances in Giving Employers Protection in Hiring Convicted Felons

Senate Bill 207/AB 286, authored by Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc), allows an employer to consider an individual’s felony conviction record when deciding to hire or terminate that individual. Currently, if a person with a felony conviction record who has not been pardoned is either not hired or terminated from employment, that person can sue the employer under WFEA.

Proponents of the legislation eliminating felony records as a protected class under WFEA argue that as a result of current law, employers often face meritless lawsuits and are forced to settle these cases rather than risk expending unnecessary resources fighting the cases in court.

Proponents also note that Wisconsin is in the vast minority of states that have statutes allowing individuals with felony conviction records to sue private employers. (Only five other states have similar statutes – Illinois, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, New York, and Kansas.)

Assembly Bill 207 passed out of the Assembly Labor Committee on a party line vote (5-3), but passed with bipartisan support in the Senate (4-1).