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Wisconsin municipalities would retain the ability to create and enforce their own employment ordinances related to discrimination under an amended bill adopted by the Assembly early Friday morning.

The amendment rolled back a provision that would have gutted the city of Madison’s nearly 55-year-old Equal Opportunities Ordinance and eliminated a dozen protected classes in the city.

“Local control is really critical and communities should have the local ability to make those kinds of decisions about employment discrimination,” Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, said on the amendment.

City Civil Rights director Norman Davis said eliminating the provision is a “win” for local communities.

“We want to make sure our residents are heard, that their needs are met and that their civil rights are protected,” Davis said.

The protected classes that would have been eliminated include gender identity, non-religion, homelessness, source of income, lack of a social security number, physical appearance, political beliefs, student status, domestic partners, citizenship, unemployment status and credit history.

“It was personal for us,” Davis said. “To roll back those protections and to tell the city of Madison that we can’t protect our residents — and frankly, anyone that comes to Madison — the way they want to be protected didn't sit well with us.”

The proposal was introduced by Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, and Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield.

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The proposal is designed to prevent the state from "becoming a patchwork quilt of employment laws," Kapenga said during the bill's first public hearing.

The adopted bill retains a provision that prohibits municipalities from setting a higher minimum wage than the state for contracted employees, which would likely affect Dane County’s efforts to move toward a $15 minimum wage for government workers.

Additionally, the bill would:

  • Ban a local government from imposing stricter occupational licensing requirements than the state
  • Set a statewide standard for regulations of employee scheduling, hours and overtime
  • Establish statewide regulations for employee benefits
  • Clarify that employers in the state have the right to ask job applicants for salary information
  • Prevent local governments from establishing a wage-claim process that is different than the state

Lawmakers also added an amendment that exempts Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics company coming to southwest Wisconsin, from the bill.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.