Appeals Court Clarifies Limitations Period under State’s Family
and Medical Leave Act
By org jforward wisbar Joe Forward, Legal Writer,
State Bar of Wisconsin
Oct. 29, 2012
– A state appeals court recently ruled that Robert Hoague was not barred from filing a complaint
seeking damages against his employer for violations of the Wisconsin
Family and Medical Leave Act and clarified the limitations period in
The Wisconsin Equal Rights Division found that Kraft Foods Global Inc.
violated Hoague’s right to medical leave and awarded nearly
$19,000 in back pay and benefits. Neither party petitioned for rehearing
or judicial review, but Hoague filed a civil
complaint 88 days later.
Under Wis. Stat. section 103.10(13),
an employee can file civil actions in circuit court against an employer
to recover damages for family and medical leave act violations
“after the completion of an administrative proceeding, including
judicial review, concerning the same violation.”
But the action must be commenced within 60 days of completion of the
administrative hearing or 12 months after the violation occurred,
whichever is later. The circuit court dismissed Hoague’s complaint
as untimely under the 60-day limitation. Hoague appealed.
v. Kraft Foods Global Inc., 2012AP133 (Oct. 25, 2012), the
District IV Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed while clarifying when
the section 103.10(13) limitations period begins in cases where an
employer does not seek judicial review of an agency decision.
Kraft argued that Hoague did not timely file the complaint because the
limitations period began when the Equal Rights Division issued its
order. Hoague argued the clock began 30 days later, the end date of the
time to petition for rehearing or judicial review of the
Noting the statute is ambiguous, the appeals court agreed with Hoague,
concluding that “the more reasonable interpretation of the
statute” gives employees 60 days “after expiration of the
time for seeking judicial review of the agency’s order in the
“This interpretation more reasonably reflects the practicalities
of the two-stage process created by the legislature,” wrote Judge
JoAnne Kloppenburg for the three-judge panel.