Municipal Labor Counsel

As special counsel to more than 250 municipalities throughout the state of Wisconsin, we assist counties, cities, villages and towns with a variety of labor and employment problems. In addition, we provide counsel on issues unique to municipalities, including public records, open meetings, condemnation proceedings, zoning and development issues, and ethics. We work closely with municipal attorneys in a complementary way – one that avoids duplication of legal work while addressing the difficult legal issues that face municipal employers in tough economic times.

Public Safety and Transit Employees Collective Bargaining

  • While Acts 10 and 32 have significantly altered the public sector collective bargaining process for most employees, the duty to bargain regarding wages, hours and conditions of employment is still alive and well for police, fire and transit labor unions. New issues regarding prohibited practices and dues contributions have further complicated this process. Our team has been involved in the evolution of the law in regard to these new issues and has unsurpassed experience in bargaining with these units. We can help you effectively negotiate, interpret these collective bargaining agreements in a consistent manner consistent with a long term strategy. We are experienced with all aspects of strategic planning and bring a variety of negotiating tactics to the table when serving as chief spokesperson. In addition, we provide ardent defense of the final offer in interest arbitration cases.

Grievance Procedures

  • The recently mandated grievance procedure for disciplinary actions, terminations and safety violations will raise new issues in public sector labor relations. Issues once addressed in labor agreements through grievance arbitration will now be subject to the new procedure, a procedure that requires notice and an opportunity to be heard before an independent hearing examiner. As the authors of many of the policies governing these new procedures the members of our team can provide insight into all aspects of the grievance process whether preserving, collecting and presenting evidence and otherwise advising administration, or advising the municipal entity in avoiding the pit falls while following the proper steps in the new grievance procedure.

Police and Fire Commission Proceedings

  • Police and Fire Commission hearings are often notorious and disruptive not only to the department involved, but to the entire community. Some of the disruption can be addressed and mitigated by effective counsel. Our experience as advisors to the PFC as well as counsel to the administration has prepared us to deal with the issues such as press coverage, employee unrest and interdepartmental stress that often permeate these proceedings as well as providing effective, insightful legal counsel to our client.

Layoffs and Consolidation of Services

  • When staff changes are unavoidable, we advise on the legal and contractual issues related to layoffs, reductions in force, subcontracting, and consolidation of services. Our staff has particular expertise in human resource issues adding an extra set of eyes to the reorganization process as well as the legal expertise necessary to anticipate and address the potential legal issues inherent in any downsizing or consolidation. In addition members of our team have significant expertise in intergovernmental consolidation of municipal services and the intergovernmental agreements related to those initiatives.

Discrimination and Harassment

  • Particularly under Wisconsin law, it is essential to train supervisors in harassment law to avoid vicarious liability. Our team offers supervisor training and proactive advice on avoiding complaints. When a situation has already escalated, we assist by overseeing and responding to the investigation and defending the claim before state and federal administrative agencies.

General Employment Issues

  • Regulations such as ADAAA, FMLA, FLSA provide an alphabet soup of complex employment regulations. We are prepared to assist with hiring, discipline and discharge, transfers, promotions, leaves of absence, and wage and hour issues.

Ancillary Issues

  • We give advice on a variety of topics affecting elected officials including compliance with open meetings law, public records law, and the code of ethics for local government officials. Our team has experience and expertise in zoning, planning and development work as special counsel in TIF matters, condemnation cases and acting as advisors to related committees and boards.


  • With the implementation of Wisconsin’s Acts 10 and 32, the employment environment changed from that of working under the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement to that of supervising and managing under newly developed personnel policies. Our team has drafted and assisted in the administration of policies for numerous employers.

The professionals at Davis|Kuelthau have a long tradition of serving public sector employers but also have considerable experience in the private sector. As municipal employers transition from a predominantly union environment to a less restrained management system more akin to the private sector, they need to remain aware that they are still municipal employers and that certain constitutional protections and state and federal regulations apply to them that apply differently or do not apply to their private sector counterparts. In many respects,training is more important now than ever. The professionals at Davis|Kuelthau can provide in-house, on-site training, assisting your supervisors and managers to adapt to the new employment environment.

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