Sexual Orientation Protection

This page was formerly ERD-14266-P

Overview

The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act prohibits employers, employment agencies, labor unions, licensing agencies, and other persons from discriminating against employees, job applicants, or licensing applicants because of their membership in specific protected categories, including sexual orientation.

The Wisconsin Fair Employment Law defines "sexual orientation" as having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such a preference or being identified with such a preference.

What actions are covered?

When an individual's use or nonuse of lawful products motivates the decision related to an employment action or licensing action, it becomes unlawful discrimination.

Specifically, the law prohibits discrimination in:

How does the law define sexual orientation?

The Wisconsin Fair Employment Law defines "sexual orientation" as having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such a preference or being identified with such a preference.

Who is protected?

The Wisconsin Fair Employment Law applies to all private and public employers, regardless of the number of employees, except for federal government or tribal employers.

Can an employer refuse to hire a person because of their sexual orientation?

No, the law prohibits discrimination because of being identified as a relative, friend or significant other of someone with a particular sexual orientation.

May an employer ask about an applicant’s sexual orientation?

The Fair Employment Law prohibits any inquiry that implies or expresses any limitation because of a protected basis, including sexual orientation. Marital status discrimination is also prohibited under Wisconsin law and questions about marital status that are designed to detect a person’s sexual orientation may violate both marital status and sexual orientation provisions of the law.

Is an individual protected if an employer thinks the employee’s sexual orientation is different than it really is and acts on that perception?

Yes, the definition includes being identified with a preference for a particular sexual orientation. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against someone based on perceived sexual orientation, even if the perception is wrong, for example, it would be a violation of the law if an employer assumes a man is homosexual because he is effeminate and discharges him because of that perception.

How much time do I have to file a complaint?

If you experience discrimination because of your use or nonuse of lawful products, you may file a complaint with the Equal Rights Division within 300 days of the discriminatory action.

Does the complaint have to be in writing? Is there a form I should use to file the complaint?

Yes, you must file a written complaint. You can use the form listed below.

Employment Discrimination Complaint (Form ERD-4206) ( PDF | Word )

Queja de discriminación de empleo (Form ERD-4206-S) ( PDF | Word )

Can you help me with my complaint?

If you need assistance in writing and filing a complaint, an Equal Rights Officer can help you.

It is important to note that the Equal Rights Division does not provide legal advice or legal representation to either party in a case. You can find legal representation through the Attorney Referral List or calling the State Bar Lawyer Referral number at (800) 362-9082.

What will the Equal Rights Division do after I file a complaint?

The Equal Rights Division will investigate the complaint, help parties with settlement, if both parties express an interest, and order relief if discrimination is found after a formal hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. You can read more about the complaint process, settlement process, and early referral mediation program.

Resources

For more information

Email DWD DWD Photo Gallery DWD on Twitter DWD on Facebook DWD on YouTube DWD on LinkedIn DWD RSS Feed

A proud partner of the network