person with forearm crutches standing next to computer workstation

The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that employers cannot discriminate against employees based on disability status, and must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. Despite this law being in effect, instances of discrimination still occur in the workplace. Disability Rights Wisconsin acts to ensure that all people with disabilities are guaranteed their full employment rights.

Your Rights

The ADA protects the rights of Americans with disabilities to be free from employment discrimination. Understanding these rights is an important first step to ensuring you are receiving the care, resources, services, and supports to which you are entitled.

Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA)

Wisconsin law, like federal law, prohibits employment discrimination based on disability. Disability protections are part of the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA). The WFEA, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), prohibits discrimination based on disability in all aspects of the employment relationship including hiring, firing, and terms and conditions of employment. Although the two laws are similar there are many differences, some of which are significant.

Who Does the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act Apply To

WFEA covers employers with one or more employees. It also applies to the activities of labor organizations. It applies to public and private employers including the state and local governments, the legislature and the courts. Unlike the ADA which applies only to people who meet the definition of disability, the WFEA covers a number of protected classes, i.e., it prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, marital status, sexual orientation, age over 40, creed, color and national origin.

Under the WFEA, “individual with a disability” is defined as an individual who has a physical or mental impairment which makes achievement unusually difficult or limits the capacity to work. The first prong involving an “impairment which makes achievement unusually difficult” is similar to the “substantially impairs one or more major life activities” criterion under the ADA. The second prong “limits the capacity to work” refers to the particular job in question.

Additionally, the WFEA protects individuals who have a record of such an impairment or are perceived as having such an impairment. Unlike the ADA, the WFEA does not provide protections based on association with an individual with a disability.

What Actions are Prohibited Under WFEA?

The WFEA generally prohibits refusing to hire, employ, admit or license any individual or barring or terminating from employment or labor organization membership any individual because of his/her disability. Additionally, it prohibits discrimination against any individual in promotion, compensation, or terms and conditions of employment or labor organization membership because of a disability. It also prohibits retaliation against an individual for asserting his/her rights under the Act, assisting another person in protecting his/her rights under the Act, or for opposing discriminatory practices.

Furthermore, the statute prohibits advertising for or having application forms that imply or express a limitation or discrimination on the basis of disability. This also limits inquiries that can be made as part of a hiring process.

If you believe you may have been discriminated against in the hiring process or on the job, you should save and/or make an accurate record of all relevant events and paperwork related to the possible discrimination. This could prove to be decisive in determining the outcome of your case.

How do I make a Discrimination Complaint under WFEA?

If you believe you have been discriminated against in violation of the WFEA , you can contact the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and request a discrimination complaint form. You must file this form with them within 300 days of the events giving rise to your claim. Your signed and completed form will in turn be sent to the employer for a response within ten days.


Disability Rights Wisconsin takes on legal cases on behalf of individuals or organizations that have been unfairly treated by employers, as well as providing advocacy and information on the rights of employees who have disabilities.

Self-Advocacy Resources

Our self-advocacy resources have helpful guidance and further information on issues related to this topic. Learn more below:


Other places that may be able to help you:

  • Community Justice Inc: Lawyers For Everyday People

    A law firm that represents low-income individuals and families involved in landlord/tenant, disability and mental health, employment, family, child welfare, education, discrimination, consumer/credit, land use, environmental issues.

  • Department of Vocation Rehabilitation (DVR):

    The Wisconsin DVR provides employment services and counseling to people with disabilities, provides or arranges for services to enable an individual to go to work, and provides training and technical assistance to employers regarding disability employment issues.

  • Economic Justice Institute

    Programs are dedicated to serving low-income and other under-represented clients in matters designed to enhance access to justice and economic security.

  • Job Accommodation Network

    The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.

  • Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development – Equal Rights Division

    The Equal Rights Division enforces anti-discrimination laws, wage and hour laws, and various other provisions related to employment in Wisconsin.

Learn More

You can find more information on this topic from these websites and publications:


Want to do more to help protect individuals with disabilities? Please visit our Take Action Page for some ideas and to sign up for news and other alerts from our website. Or Donate Now to help protect and advocate for the rights and futures of all Wisconsin citizens. We'd love to have you join us.

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