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Wage Payment and Collection Law

You have the right to file a wage claim if there is a dispute with your employer about the amount of wages owed, or if the employer fails to pay wages earned on the regularly scheduled payday. This page provides information about common wage and hour issues.

You can file a complaint online or paper (to be mailed) with the Division within 2 years of the date the wages were earned, or sue the employer in small claims or circuit court.

Summary of Labor Standards Laws and the Complaint Process

Wage Payment

Chapter 109, Wis. Stats., requires most Wisconsin employers to pay workers all wages earned at least monthly, with no longer than 31 days between pay periods. The only employers exempted from this requirement are:

Employers may establish more frequent pay periods (e.g., weekly, biweekly or semimonthly).

If you are separated from your job you must be paid in accordance with the employer's regular pay schedule.

Direct Deposit Wage Payments

An employer has the right to require you to participate in a direct deposit program. There cannot be any cost to you to participate in a mandatory program. Even if wages are deposited directly, you must still receive a check stub showing the rate of pay, hours worked, and the amount of and reason for each deduction.

Wage Claims

You have the right to file a wage claim with us if there is a dispute with the employer about the amount of wages owed. If the employer refuses to pay wages earned on the regularly established payday, you should request payment. If you do not receive payment after 6 days, you may file a claim with us. Once a claim is filed, we will seek to resolve the matter with the employer.

We may take action on the following types of wage claims:

We may not have authority to take legal action on some claims, including:

Union members who wish to file wage claims will be advised by us to file their claims with their local union representatives.

If you file a claim, you must do so online or by printing the Labor Standards Complaint form and mailing it to our office.

Claim forms also are available at most Job Center offices as a courtesy, but those offices do not process the claims.

There is a 2-year statute of limitations on the collection of wage claims. Wages must be claimed within 2 years of the date payable.

Payroll Information

Employers are required to state clearly on each employee's paycheck, pay envelope, or other accompanying paper the number of hours worked, the rate of pay, and the amount of and reason for each deduction from their wages. A reasonable coding system may be used.

The only exception occurs where you requested a deduction for personal reasons. Those deductions may be labeled as "miscellaneous".

We also allow employers to use electronic pay stubs, provided that you have access to a printer and you are not charged to print the stub each pay period.

Deductions from Wages for Loss, Theft, Damage, or Faulty Workmanship

Employers may only make deductions from your wages for loss, theft, damage, or faulty workmanship under one of the following conditions:

An employer who makes a deduction not authorized in one of these ways may be held liable for twice the amount of the deduction. Blanket authorizations are not valid. Your written permission must be obtained after each occurrence of a problem.

Procedures for Processing Wage Claims

Once a wage claim is filed, it is necessary to gather the facts from both parties. This process is done by gathering documentary evidence and written responses from the parties. The Labor Standards Investigation Section has approximately 800-1000 claims active at any one time and it is not possible to call each of you once the case is filed. Verbal communication is discouraged, as it is necessary to receive all information in writing for the file to be complete if court action becomes necessary. Even after a telephone call, you will be asked to write out and send whatever information you stated on the telephone. It will save all parties time if you mail written questions and information to the office.

Description of the process

Once you submit a complaint form to our Division:

Note: We have no control over the action of the district attorneys or whether they will accept a case. You are responsible for contacting the district attorney after the case has been forwarded to indicate if you wish to pursue the matter in court and pay any necessary filing fees.

Employer Retaliation Prohibited

An employer is prohibited from retaliating against any employee who:

under the state's labor standards laws including employment of minors, minimum wage, hours of work and overtime, wage payment and collection, and prevailing wage rate laws.

This law's protections also apply if an employer takes an adverse employment action against you because that employer believes you have exercised any of the above rights.

IF you need further information concerning protections under the state's anti-retaliation provisions you should contact the Equal Rights Division.

We are an equal opportunity employer and service provider. If you have a disability and need to access this information in an alternate format or need it translated to another language, please contact us in Madison at (608) 266-6860 or in Milwaukee at (414) 227-4384.

Filing of a Wage Claim

To file a wage claim, or to obtain more information about any of these provisions, contact our Equal Rights Division at either of our office locations or send an email to the Equal Rights Division.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do if my employer is not paying the minimum wage?

You must receive at least the minimum wage per hour for all hours your employer requires you to work, including preparation time, on-the-job training, and required meetings. If your employer is not paying you at least the minimum wage, you can file a complaint online or print, sign and mail the complaint form to our office.

When does my employer have to pay me overtime?

Unless an exemption applies, overtime must be paid at one and one-half times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a seven-day workweek. No employer or employee may enter into an agreement that would violate the overtime law that requires an employee is paid overtime. If your employer is not correctly paying your overtime, you can file a complaint online or print, sign and mail the complaint form to our office.

When is my employer required to pay me after I've quit or been fired?

If you leave employment for any reason, you must be paid in accordance with the employer's regular pay schedule.

If my employer does not pay me on my regularly scheduled payday, what can I do?

If you are unable to resolve the payment issue with your employer, you can file a complaint online or print, sign and mail the complaint form to our office after 6 days have elapsed.

Is my employer required to give me notice when he fires me? Do I have to give notice when I quit?

Generally, notice is not required by either party. However, notice of quitting may affect payout of fringe benefits like vacation or PTO. It may also affect payout of final wages. If your employer has a policy that requires resignation notice or your final paycheck's rate of pay is reduced if you do not fulfill the notice requirement, and you do not follow the policy after having been made aware of the policy, they may be able to reduce the final paycheck.

I just gave my employer two weeks advance notice that I was quitting. Instead of letting me work until the date of my resignation, my employer fired me immediately. Am I entitled to be paid for the time that I gave notice?

You are not entitled to any wages for the notice period because you did not perform any work during that period. If otherwise eligible, you may be entitled to Unemployment Insurance benefits for the period that you were willing to work but not allowed to work. Note that there is a one-week waiting period for Unemployment Insurance benefits.

Am I entitled to my unused vacation/PTO when I am fired or if I quit?

Whether an employer must pay for unused benefit pay depends upon the terms of the employer's vacation or resignation policy. Wisconsin employers are not required to provide fringe benefits such as vacation, holiday, or sick pay. When an employer does decide to create a benefit policy, the employer is free to impose any conditions it chooses. Generally, IF the employer implemented a written vacation policy AND it does not include a written forfeit policy, THEN the employer must pay the employee for any earned, unused vacation pay. If you have not been paid for unused vacation and believe you are entitled to this benefit, you can file a complaint online or print, sign and mail the complaint form to our office.

My employer wants to take my wages to make up for cash shortages or things I break. Can they do that?

Employers are only allowed to deduct certain items from an employee's wages, such as taxes, insurance premiums, etc. Employers are not permitted to charge employees for breakages, cash shortages, fines or any other losses to the business, unless you have authorized the deduction in writing after the loss, theft, damage of faulty workmanship, and before the deductions were made.

Does my employer have to give me a pay stub?

Yes. An employer must provide to the employee showing:

  1. the hours the employee worked,
  2. the wages earned by the employee, and
  3. the deductions made from that paycheck.

For more information