Wisconsin Bell, Inc. v. LIRC – Agency Deference In Employment Discrimination Claims
This employment case examines the “inference method” of causation as it relates to the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA). More specifically here, whether the evidence of record was sufficient to support the LIRC’s findings and decision regarding the firing of an employee with a disability. The Court of Appeals concluded it was. The Supreme Court reviews the following issues as presented by Wisconsin Bell, Inc.:
- Is the Labor and Industry Review Commission’s (LIRC) “inference method” of proof, as grounds for liability under the “because of disability” prong of the WFEA, based on a reasonable interpretation of the statute and consistent with public policy underlying the statute?
- If the “inference method” of proof is a valid means of proving intentional discrimination, what evidence of causation between the employee’s conduct and the employee’s disability is required, and should the employer have knowledge of that evidence?
- Was there sufficient evidence of causation and employer knowledge in this case, and was it reasonable for Wisconsin Bell not to excuse Carlson’s conduct?
- Does the practice of deferring to agency interpretations of statutes comport with Article VII, Section 2 of the Wisconsin Constitution, which vests the judicial power in the unified court system? More on deference in the Foundation blog.
Supreme Court Decision (June 26, 2018)