2017 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
Chapter 109. Wage payments, claims and collections.
109.09 Wage claims, collection.

Universal Citation: WI Stat § 109.09 (2017)

109.09 Wage claims, collection.

(1) The department shall investigate and attempt equitably to adjust controversies between employers and employees as to alleged wage claims. The department may receive and investigate any wage claim that is filed with the department, or received by the department under s. 109.10 (4), no later than 2 years after the date the wages are due. The department may, after receiving a wage claim, investigate any wages due from the employer against whom the claim is filed to any employee during the period commencing 2 years before the date the claim is filed. The department shall enforce this chapter and s. 66.0903, 2013 stats., s. 103.49, 2013 stats., s. 229.8275, 2013 stats., and s. 16.856, 2015 stats., and ss. 103.02, 103.82, and 104.12. In pursuance of this duty, the department may sue the employer on behalf of the employee to collect any wage claim or wage deficiency and ss. 109.03 (6) and 109.11 (2) and (3) shall apply to such actions. Except for actions under s. 109.10, the department may refer such an action to the district attorney of the county in which the violation occurs for prosecution and collection and the district attorney shall commence an action in the circuit court having appropriate jurisdiction. Any number of wage claims or wage deficiencies against the same employer may be joined in a single proceeding, but the court may order separate trials or hearings. In actions that are referred to a district attorney under this subsection, any taxable costs recovered by the district attorney shall be paid into the general fund of the county in which the violation occurs and used by that county to meet its financial responsibility under s. 978.13 (2) (b) for the operation of the office of the district attorney who prosecuted the action.

(2)

(a) The department of workforce development, under its authority under sub. (1) to maintain actions for the benefit of employees, or an employee who brings an action under s. 109.03 (5) shall have a lien upon all property of the employer, real or personal, located in this state for the full amount of any wage claim or wage deficiency.

(b)

1. A lien under par. (a) upon real property takes effect when the department of workforce development or employee files a notice of the lien with the clerk of the circuit court of the county in which the services or some part of the services were performed, pays the fee specified in s. 814.61 (5) to that clerk of circuit court and serves a copy of that petition on the employer by personal service in the same manner as a summons is served under s. 801.11 or by certified mail with a return receipt requested. The clerk of circuit court shall enter the notice of the lien on the judgment and lien docket kept under s. 779.07.

2. A lien under par. (a) upon personal property takes effect when the department of workforce development or employee files notice of the lien in the same manner, form, and place as financing statements are filed under subch. V of ch. 409 regarding debtors who are located in this state, pays the same fee provided in s. 409.525 for filing financing statements, and serves a copy of the notice on the employer by personal service in the same manner as a summons is served under s. 801.11 or by certified mail with a return receipt requested. The department of financial institutions shall place the notice of the lien in the same file as financing statements are filed under subch. V of ch. 409.

3. The department of workforce development or employee must file the notice under subd. 1. or 2. within 2 years after the date on which the wages were due. The notice shall specify the nature of the claim and the amount claimed, describe the property upon which the claim is made and state that the person filing the notice claims a lien on that property.

(c)

1. In this paragraph:

a. “Commercial lending institution" has the meaning given for “financial institution" in s. 234.01 (5k).

b. “Financial institution" has the meaning given in s. 69.30 (1) (b).

1m. A lien under par. (a) takes precedence over all other debts, judgments, decrees, liens, or mortgages against the employer, except a lien of a commercial lending institution as provided in subd. 2. and 3. or a lien under s. 292.31 (8) (i) or 292.81, regardless of whether those other debts, judgments, decrees, liens, or mortgages originate before or after the lien under par. (a) takes effect. A lien under par. (a) may be enforced in the manner provided in ss. 779.09 to 779.12, 779.20, and 779.21, insofar as those provisions are applicable. The lien ceases to exist if the department of workforce development or the employee does not bring an action to enforce the lien within the period prescribed in s. 893.44 for the underlying wage claim.

2. Except as provided in this subdivision, a lien under par. (a) does not take precedence over a lien of a commercial lending institution against the employer that originates before the lien under par. (a) takes effect. Subject to subd. 3., a lien under par. (a) takes precedence over a lien of a commercial lending institution against the employer that originates before the lien under par. (a) takes effect only as to the first $3,000 of unpaid wages covered under the lien that are earned by an employee within the 6 months preceding the date on which the employee files the wage claim under sub. (1) or brings the action under s. 109.03 (5) or the date on which the department receives the wage claim under s. 109.10 (4) (a), whichever is applicable.

3. Notwithstanding subd. 2., a lien of a financial institution that exists on November 30, 2003, and that originates before a lien under par. (a) takes effect takes precedence over the lien under par. (a), and a lien of a financial institution for any amount advanced by the financial institution after a lien under par. (a) takes effect under a contract entered into before December 1, 2003, including any extension or renewal of such a contract, takes precedence over the lien under par. (a). Notwithstanding subd. 2., a lien under par. (a) that exists on November 30, 2003, takes precedence over a lien of a commercial lending institution that is not a financial institution, regardless of whether the lien of the commercial lending institution originates before or after the lien under par. (a) takes effect.

History: 1975 c. 380; 1979 c. 32 s. 92 (9); 1985 a. 29, 220; 1989 a. 113; 1991 a. 146; 1993 a. 86, 453; 1995 a. 227; 1997 a. 27, 237; 1999 a. 9; 1999 a. 150 s. 672; 1999 a. 167; 2001 a. 10; 2003 a. 63; 2005 a. 434; 2009 a. 28; 2011 a. 32; 2015 a. 55; 2017 a. 59.

Under sub. (1), courts may award costs to DILHR when DILHR prevails but may not tax costs against DILHR when a defendant employer prevails. DILHR v. Coatings, Inc. 126 Wis. 2d 338, 376 N.W.2d 834 (1985).

Chapter 103 does not provide the exclusive remedy for enforcement of claims under that chapter. Claims under statutes enumerated in sub. (1) may be enforced by a private action brought under s. 109.03 (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.

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