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History and Description of OSER


The Office of State
Employment Relations (OSER) serves the citizens of the State of Wisconsin by establishing, implementing, and monitoring personnel policies and programs to ensure a competent work force and to promote equitable treatment of all current and prospective employees of the state.

The state civil service system includes the functions of recruitment, examinations and selection; classification and compensation; labor-management relations; affirmative action; employee performance evaluation; employee development and training. The Office provides training services in human resources to Wisconsin state government agencies. The Office also operates the State Employee Suggestion Program and the statewide Employee Assistance Program.

OSER is administered by a Director who is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the Governor. An executive assistant and executive staff are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the Director. There are three divisions. OSER is attached for administrative support purposes to the Department of Administration.


The Division of Affirmative Action (DAA) is the central affirmative action/equal employment opportunity (AA/EEO) office for Wisconsin state government.  DAA issues standards, reviews and approves state agency and UW System affirmative action plans, and monitors agency compliance on an on-going basis. The division prepares annual reports which evaluate state progress in hiring racial/ethnic minorities, women, persons with disabilities, veterans, and Wisconsin Works (W-2) and food stamp customers with dependent children. DAA provides technical assistance; trains new supervisors regarding AA/EEO responsibilities; coordinates Cooperative Education Program (CEP) and Information Technology Employment Program for Minority Students (ITEMS); and provides staff service to the State Council on Affirmative Action, a 15-member citizen body appointed by the Governor and legislative leaders to evaluate the state's progress in achieving statutory affirmative action objectives.

Information about Affirmative Action programs can be found at the Affirmative Action link under Human Resource Services.


The Division of Compensation and Labor Relations (DCLR) negotiates and administers collective bargaining agreements with nineteen bargaining units representing 35,000 state employees, develops and administers pay and benefits systems for 6,400 non-represented employees, and represents the state in grievance arbitration cases. The division also maintains a labor market survey research program that investigates external market comparable data for collective bargaining and pay range assignment purposes, and collects and reports on a variety of state workforce demographic summaries. The division also develops the compensation reserve recommendation for the governor's biennial operating budget, ensures state agency compliance with the Family Medical Leave Act and provides training to hundreds of management/ supervisory staff in basic and advanced labor-management relations and state/union contract orientation, administration, and interpretation. The Division provides staff support to the Labor-Management Cooperation program (http://workingtogether.state.wi.us). The Division consists of two bureaus:

  • Bureau of Compensation
  • Bureau of Labor Relations

Information about the Divisionís programs can be found under the Compensation and Labor Relations links on the Human Resource Services page.


The Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection (DMRS) administers the Wisconsin civil service system by hiring, recruiting, testing, and evaluating applicants; creating employment registers of qualified applicants; and referring best-qualified candidates to agencies for interviews. DMRS serves thousands of job applicants, more than 50 state agencies, 26 University of Wisconsin campuses and, through the Wisconsin City and County Services, over 300 local governments across Wisconsin. Each year DMRS administers over 1,000 different civil service exams and other applicant evaluations, enabling agencies to hire or promote up to 4,000 employees. The division conducts ongoing, systematic personnel surveys to maintain and improve classification, compensation, and benefit programs in 2,000 job classifications. It ensures state agency compliance with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and reviews determinations of protective occupation status. It also provides management training to hundreds of management/supervisory staff throughout state government in personnel administration and classification.

The division also includes Wisconsin Personnel Partners, which provides personnel services on a fee basis to local units of government.


The Office of State Employment Relations, which was created by 2003 Wisconsin Act 33, has its roots in legislation enacted early in the century. Wisconsin created a State Civil Service Commission in 1905 (Chapter 363) and declared that appointments to and promotions in the civil service would be made only according to merit. Chapter 456, Laws of 1929, reconstituted the commission as the Personnel Board within the newly created Bureau of Personnel. This structure continued for 30 years until the legislature placed the board and bureau in the new Department of Administration, created in Chapter 228, Laws of 1959.

In 1972, Governor Patrick Lucey issued an executive order creating an affirmative action unit in the Bureau of Personnel. The order also directed the head of every state agency to encourage women and minorities to apply for promotions and to designate an affirmative action officer responsible for developing an affirmative action plan.

Chapter 196, Laws of 1977, created the Department of Employment Relations and transferred to it from the Department of Administration the organizational units and functions of the Employee Relations Division, including affirmative action, personnel, collective bargaining and human resources services.

2003 Wisconsin Act 33 eliminated the Department of Employment Relations and transferred its functions to the new Office of State Employment Relations.  The Office is attached to the Department of Administration for admininstrative purposes, which means that administrative support functions (fiscal operations, personnel, computer support, etc.) are provided by the Department of Administration.

The year 2005 marked the 100th anniversary of the origins of Wisconsin civil service -- go to http://www.civilservicecentennial.wi.gov for more information.

Reproduced in part from the 1999-2000 Wisconsin Blue Book, with permission from the Legislative Reference Bureau.


Last Modified:  2/12/2013 8:19:28 AM
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Office of State Employment Relations
101 East Wilson Street, 4th Floor
Madison, WI  53702
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