Does a municipal employer have to
provide notice, a hearing or some other process before ending an
employment relationship with a municipal employee?
Generally, no. In Wisconsin, municipal
employees are generally classified as "at will" employees. In the
absence of a civil service ordinance or law, or a contract or collective
bargaining agreement or other document stating otherwise such as a
personnel policy or employee handbook, "at will" employees may be
terminated with or without cause, with or without notice by the
employer. See State ex rel. Epping v. City of Neilsville, 218 Wis.2d 516, 581 N.W.2d 548, 552; (Ct. App. 1998); Vorwald v. School District,
167 Wis.2d 549, 482 N.W.2d 93, 96 (1992). However, a municipal employee
may not be discharged for unlawful reasons (e.g., discrimination based
on, among other things, race, gender, age, or national origin).
A contract, state law, local ordinance or
other document (e.g., employee handbook) may alter an employee's
at-will status. If the municipality and an employee enter into an
express or implied contract, any discharge must be done pursuant to the
terms of the contract. Certain municipal employees are protected by
state laws from being fired at the will of the municipality. For
example, municipalities must comply with certain due process procedures
specified in the statutes when seeking to terminate police or fire
department personnel. See Wis. Stat. secs. 62.13(5), 62.13(6m), and
61.65(1)(am) and 60.56(1)(am).