2017 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
Chapter 109. Wage payments, claims and collections.
109.03 When wages payable; pay orders.

Universal Citation: WI Stat § 109.03 (2017)

109.03 When wages payable; pay orders.

(1)Required frequency of payments. Every employer shall as often as monthly pay to every employee engaged in the employer's business, except those employees engaged in logging operations and farm labor, all wages earned by the employee to a day not more than 31 days prior to the date of payment. Employees engaged in logging operations and farm labor shall be paid all earned wages no less often than at regular quarterly intervals. Any employee who is absent at the time fixed for payment or who for any other reason is not paid at that time shall be paid thereafter at any time upon 6 days' demand. The required frequency of wage payments provided in this subsection does not apply to any of the following:

(a) Employees covered under a valid collective bargaining agreement establishing a different frequency for wage payments, including deferred payments exercised at the option of employees.

(b) School district and private school employees who voluntarily request payment over a 12-month period for personal services performed during the school year, unless, with respect to private school employees, the employees are covered under a valid collective bargaining agreement which precludes this method of payment.

(c) Employees of the University of Wisconsin System other than university staff, as defined in s. 36.05 (15).

(d) Employees who receive compensatory time off under s. 103.025 in lieu of overtime compensation.

(e) A part-time fire fighter or a part-time emergency medical services practitioner, as defined in s. 256.01 (5), who is a member of a volunteer fire department or emergency medical services program maintained by a county, city, village, or town or of a volunteer fire company organized under ch. 181 or ch. 213 and who, by agreement between the fire fighter or emergency medical services practitioner and the entity employing the fire fighter or emergency medical services practitioner, is paid at regular intervals, but no less often than annually.

(2)Payment to discharged or resigned employees. Any employee, except a sales agent employed on a commission basis, not having a written contract for a definite period, who quits employment or who is discharged from employment shall be paid in full by no later than the date on which the employee regularly would have been paid under the employer's established payroll schedule or the date of payment required under sub. (1), whichever is earlier.

(3)Payment upon death of employee.

(a) In case of the death of an employee to whom wages are due, the full amount of the wages due shall upon demand be paid by the employer to the spouse, domestic partner under ch. 770, children, or other dependent living with the employee at the time of death.

(b) An employer may, not less than 5 days after the death of an employee and before the filing of a petition or application for administration of the decedent's estate, make payments of the wage due the deceased employee to the spouse, domestic partner under ch. 770, children, parents, or siblings of the decedent, giving preference in the order listed.

(c) If none of the persons listed in par. (b) survives, the employer may apply the payment of the wage or so much of the wage as may be necessary to paying creditors of the decedent in the order of preference prescribed in s. 859.25 for satisfaction of debts by personal representatives.

(d) The making of payment in the manner described in this subsection shall discharge and release the employer to the amount of the payment.

(4)Payment to certain separated employees. Whenever an employee is separated from the payroll of an employer as a result of the employer merging, liquidating or otherwise disposing of the business, ceasing business operations in whole or in part, or relocating all or part of the business to another area within or without the state, the employer, or the successors in interest of the employer, shall pay all unpaid wages to the employee at the usual place of payment within 24 hours of the time of separation.

(5)Enforcement. Except as provided in sub. (1), no employer may by special contract with employees or by any other means secure exemption from this section. Each employee shall have a right of action against any employer for the full amount of the employee's wages due on each regular pay day as provided in this section and for increased wages as provided in s. 109.11 (2), in any court of competent jurisdiction. An employee may bring an action against an employer under this subsection without first filing a wage claim with the department under s. 109.09 (1). An employee who brings an action against an employer under this subsection shall have a lien upon all property of the employer, real or personal, located in this state as described in s. 109.09 (2).

(6)Wage claim. In an action by an employee or the department against the employer on a wage claim, no security for payment of costs is required. In any such proceeding the court may allow the prevailing party, in addition to all other costs, a reasonable sum for expenses. No person other than an employee or the department shall be benefited or otherwise affected by this subsection.

(7)Protection of employees. Section 111.322 (2m) applies to discharge and other discriminatory acts arising in connection with any proceeding under this section.

History: 1975 c. 380, 421; 1977 c. 26, 235, 447; 1981 c. 20, 388; 1987 a. 403; 1989 a. 226, 228; 1993 a. 86, 144; 2001 a. 102, 103; 2007 a. 7, 195; 2009 a. 28; 2011 a. 10; 2015 a. 55; 2017 a. 12.

The award of “expenses" under sub. (6) may include attorney fees. Jacobson v. American Tool Cos., Inc. 222 Wis. 2d 384, 588 N.W.2d 67 (Ct. App. 1998), 97-2219.

The inclusion of “the state" in the definition of employer at s. 109.01 (2) and the creation of a private cause of action against employers under sub. (5) is a waiver of the state's sovereign immunity. Claims under statutes enumerated in s. 109.09 (1) may be enforced by a private action brought under sub. (5). German v. DOT, 223 Wis. 2d 525, 589 N.W.2d 651 (Ct. App. 1998), 98-0250.

Affirmed. 2000 WI 62, 235 Wis. 2d 576, 612 N.W.2d 50, 98-0250.

When an employer repudiates the contractual remedies of a collective bargaining agreement, employees are allowed to proceed under ch. 109 if they are seeking back pay. Beaudette v. Eau Claire Cty Sheriff's Department, 2003 WI App 153, 265 Wis. 2d 744, 668 N.W.2d 133, 02-2916.

Attorney fees are awardable under sub. (6). Jackman v. WMAC Inv. Corp. 610 F. Supp. 290 (1985).

In determining a reasonable attorney fee under sub. (6), a court starts by determining a reasonable hourly rate and number of hours, then makes adjustments for other factors in SCR 20:1.5 (a) or any other relevant factors. The court may use its own firsthand knowledge of the proceeding in determining the number of hours reasonably expended. The amount recovered in itself is not a reason to reduce a fee below an amount that represents a reasonable hourly rate. Lynch v. Crossroads Counseling Center, Inc. 2004 WI App 114, 275 Wis. 2d 171, 684 N.W.2d 141, 03-1344.

Sub. (5) establishes a distinct cause of action and enforcement procedure for a wage claim, wholly apart from any contract claims. Merely pleading a contract action based on nonpayment of wages is insufficient to trigger a ch. 109 wage claim under notice pleading. Wolnak v. Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgeons of Central Wisconsin, S.C. 2005 WI App 217, 287 Wis. 2d 560, 706 N.W.2d 667, 04-1051.

Appellate courts ordinarily defer to a circuit court's determination as to hours awarded in allowing attorney fees. An attorney's hours are subject to the scrutiny of the circuit court and unreasonable hours should not be compensated. Nonetheless, the appellate courts must probe the circuit court's explanation to determine if the court employed a logical rationale based on the appropriate legal principles and facts of record. The record should show that the circuit court did not eyeball the fee request and cut it down by an arbitrary percentage because it seemed excessive. Johnson v. Roma II — Waterford LLC, 2013 WI App 38, 346 Wis. 2d 612, 829 N.W.2d 538, 12-1028.

Wisconsin requires time spent donning and doffing safety gear to be compensated at the minimum wage or higher, and that this time counts toward the limit after which the overtime rate kicks in. Wisconsin law is not preempted by federal law. Spoerle v. Kraft Foods Global, Inc. 614 F.3d 427 (2010).

Wage claims against a governmental body under this section are exempt from the notice of claim requirements under s. 893.80. Gilbertson v. City of Sheboygan, 165 F. Supp. 3d 742 (2016).

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