home

Welcome!

Access to My MHA is available exclusively to current members of
the Midwest Hardware Association.

Forget your password? Members may obtain their username and
password by contacting Jordan Olds at 1-800-888-1817 ext. 301
or Andrea Ramage at ext. 365.

close

Welcome!

Access to My Payroll is available exclusively to
current users of the MHA Payroll Processing Service.

Not using MHA Payroll Processing? Contact Jody Kohl,
1-800-888-1817 ext. 346, for information on getting started
with this MHA service.

Current Payroll Service users may obtain their username
and password by contacting your MHA Payroll Specialist.

close

 

Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules Against Business Groups On Release Of Covid Case Information

By Misha Lee, MHA Wisconsin Lobbyist

A closely divided state Supreme Court handed down a ruling this month that would allow the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to release information about businesses where multiple COVID-19 cases occurred. The decision concludes an almost two-year public open records case that grappled with a business’ right to privacy against the public’s right to know certain pandemic-related information collected by a public health authority.

In a 4-3 decision, conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn sided with the court’s three liberal justices - Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky, in ruling against Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest business organization that brought the case in October of 2020. WMC, along with the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce and New Berlin Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, initiated the lawsuit in Waukesha County Circuit Court to block release of the information after Wisconsin’s health department announced plans to release to the media the names of more than 1,000 businesses with more than 25 employees where at least two workers had tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, the agency planned to release the names of businesses even if they had no employees test positive, but had two or more contact tracing investigations. Subsequently, WMC filed the action and sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the Evers administration from releasing employer information to the media that had requested the records.

In part, the lawsuit argued:

  • The records that the state planned to disclose are protected by patient-confidentiality laws
  • Even if the information that the state planned to release was not explicitly protected by the health-privacy laws, the state’s open public records law would not authorize disclosure
  • Disclosure of business information would cause these businesses irreparable harm
  • An injunction was necessary to preserve the status quo and is in the public interest

A state circuit court granted WMC’s request for an injunction preventing the release of this information while allowing the litigation to move forward. The state appealed that decision. Separately, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel intervened and sought to dismiss the case; that motion to dismiss was denied. Then, a court of appeals opinion concluded that WMC and its co-plaintiffs lack “standing” to bring the lawsuit and that a provision in Wisconsin’s open public records law prohibited the lawsuit. WMC filed a petition for review, which the state Supreme Court granted and both sides made their arguments before the court. The court concluded that a specific statute in the Wisconsin open records law prohibits WMC and its two co-plaintiffs from pursuing the lawsuit. The court reasoned that the statute generally prohibits pre-release lawsuits that seek to prevent the release of public records. The court concluded that WMC and the two co-plaintiffs do not fit any exception to this general prohibition.

This month’s court decision could result in the government releasing the names of businesses who had or have employees who tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of where or how transmission occurred. However, the court did leave open the possibility that a separate lawsuit could proceed if individual patients were the plaintiffs.

Read the court decision in Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce v. Tony Evers here.

Arrow Lock Tags
logo
9/20/22
WI Worker's Comp Rates Decline for 7th Consecutive Year
read more
9/20/22
REMINDER: Illinois Annual Sexual Harassment Training Mandate
read more
9/20/22
Minnesota: Minneapolis Minimum Wage to Increase January 1, 2023
read more
Oops!

You do not have authorization to view this page!
If you believe you have reached this message in error,
please contact MHA at 1-800-888-1817.


Go Back X