Civil Service

The 115th anniversary of the creation of Civil Service in Wisconsin is in 2020.  Check out last year’s presentation – click here!


State of Wisconsin Human Resources Handbook

State of Wisconsin Jobs, plus local government

State of Wisconsin Division of Personnel Management (replaced Office of State Employment Relations)


Wis Coalition to Save Civil Service FAQs on civil service 2016 05 23

The following letter regarding civil service appointments was sent on August 25, 2014 to the human resource directors of state agencies:

Dear (Director):

The Association of Career Employees (ACE) has had a long-standing interest in civil service appointments.

ACE is making an open records request, under WI statutes §19.31 through 19.37, for the following information, or records containing the following information, concerning civil service appointments made during the period May 1, 2014 through August 30, 2014:

  • Copy of appointment letter or other document which notifies a person appointed to a classified civil service position from an unclassified position
  • If the appointment letter or other document above does not contain the following information, other records that show the title of the unclassified position which the person held prior to the appointment, the title and classification of the position to which the individual was appointed, and the date of appointment
  • A record that shows the beginning date that the person served in the classified position, and a record that shows the ending date, if any, of the individual’s service in the classified position
  • If the individual is currently employed by your agency, a record that shows the title and classification of the position that the individual currently holds
  • Copy of a record that shows the number of applicants for the classified position to which the individual was appointed
  • Copy of a record that shows the number of persons interviewed for the classified position to which the individual was appointed.

In plain English, ACE is looking for information concerning hires of persons who serve in unclassified positions, who are subsequently hired for classified civil service jobs.

ACE defines “unclassified” positions to include WI state agency positions including Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Executive Assistant, and Division Administrator.  A full listing of unclassified positions is found at Wis. Stats § 230.08(2).  (We are not seeking information about UW academic staff hired for permanent classified positions.)

ACE has been asked to clarify the meaning of “subsequently hired.”  ACE would like information on appointments involving persons who served in an unclassified position immediately prior to being appointed to a classified position.

ACE will request records containing the same information for appointments made during the rest of 2014 at a later date.


Bob Jordan
Executive Director


Characteristics of Wisconsin’s Civil Service System

The original Slogan of Wisconsin Civil Service founded in 1905 was “ The Best Shall Serve the State.”  The following concepts were included in the founding legislation and have generally stood the tests of time.

  • All citizens should have an equal opportunity to serve the public.
  • The system provides an objective system for hiring, retention, promotion, evaluation, and removal of public employees.
  • Employees are hired based on demonstrated qualifications for the job and demonstrated ability to do the job.
  • All positions are filled by a competitive process, usually an examination.
  • Recruitment is characterized by job analysis, position descriptions, and examinations based on job duties.
  • Compensation is based on salary schedules with employees with similar duties and level of responsibility receiving similar pay and incorporating a means of recognizing meritorious service.
  • The system is managed by a central administrative structure which assures uniformity in handling personnel matters.


Threats to the Wisconsin’s Civil Service System

  • Use of criteria other than merit when making appointments (such as political affiliation or contributions, family affiliation, wealth, or religion)
  • Misuse of limited term appointments or project appointments to bypass rigorous competition in recruitment
  • Appointment of people in unclassified appointed executive positions to civil service positions for a short period of time in order to establish prior civil service experience and rights when these rights would not otherwise be available
  • Privatization of or contracting for services that reasonably could be performed by civil service employees on a long-term basis
  • Removal of civil service employees at the time of administrative changeover after elections for political purposes or reasons other than cause
  • Failure to allow civil service employees to organize and bargain for wages and benefits
  • Failure to provide sufficient compensation and benefits to attract professional and competent employees
  • Failure to provide the state-level organizational structure to oversee the civil service system
  • Exemption of entire departments or groups of employees from civil service participation


The History of the Wisconsin Civil Service, 1905-2005

The following publication was prepared by the State of Wisconsin to document 100 years of civil service history in Wisconsin and contains information that defines the concepts behind and evolution of the Wisconsin civil service system.

Civil service centennial