This policy was a part of the former UPS Policy set that was integrated into the System Administrative Policy set. It applies to all University of Wisconsin institutions except for UW-Madison. For UW-Madison’s policies, please see the Human Resource Design Policies website.

Original Issuance Date: July 1, 2015

Last Revision Date: March 18, 2024

Effective Date: August 1, 2024

1.     Policy Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to provide a framework for UW System institutions to use in the development of merit-based recruitment, selection, and hiring processes that produce a talented, effective workforce and that reflect UW System’s commitment to the principles of equal employment opportunity, non-discrimination, and diversity.

2.     Responsible UW System Officer

Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

3.     Scope and Institutional Responsibilities

This policy applies to all UW System Institutions and the UW System Administration, except for UW-Madison.

4.     Background

Wis. Stat. § 36.09(1)(e) authorizes the Board of Regents to appoint the requisite number of limited appointees, faculty, academic staff, and other employees.  Several Regent actions have served to delegate much of the appointment authority to the UW System President, who in turn further delegates this authority to the chancellors.

Wis. Stat. § 36.115 requires the Board and the UW-Madison Chancellor to establish and maintain personnel systems separate and distinct from Wisconsin’s civil service system as established under Chapter 230 of the Wisconsin Statutes.  After the Board of Regents adopted Resolution 11038 (adopted June 7, 2018) for all UW System institutions regarding employee personnel files and reference checks, this policy was modified to address concerns related to sexual violence and sexual harassment.

Faculty and academic staff recruitment policies are outlined in UWS 3.02 and UWS 10.02(1) of the Wisconsin Administrative Code, respectively.  The majority of limited appointee recruitments follow established university recruitment policies.  However, recruitment procedures for chancellors, senior vice presidents or vice presidents are outlined in Regent Policy Document 20-27, Selection Process for System President, Chancellors, Vice Chancellors and UW System Senior Leadership Positions.

5.     Definitions

Please see SYS 1225, General Terms and Definitions, for a list of general terms and definitions.

Definitions specific to this policy:

Employee: Any individual who holds a faculty, academic staff, university staff, or limited appointment with any UW System institution.

Equal opportunity and affirmative action: An active effort to improve the educational and employment opportunities of members of minority groups, women, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.

Merit: The qualifications, experience, standard of work performance, and capabilities of those persons that are relevant to the performance of those duties.

Sexual harassment: See Regent Policy Document 14-2, Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment.

Sexual violence: See Regent Policy Document 14-2, Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment.

State agency: A department or independent agency as defined under Wis. Stat. §15.01(5) and §15.01(9).

UW System institution: Any of the following: UW-Eau Claire; UW-Green Bay; UW-La Crosse; UW-Milwaukee; UW-Oshkosh; UW-Parkside; UW-Platteville; UW-River Falls; UW-Stevens Point; UW-Stout; UW-Superior; UW-Whitewater; UW System Administration.

Misconduct: Shall include findings and pending investigations with respect to sexual harassment, violence, or harassment; workplace bullying; research misconduct; financial fraud or misconduct; foreign influence violations, grant misuse or misconduct; and/or any other type of finding or pending investigation relating to a candidate’s employer’s policies and rules governing faculty or staff conduct that may reasonably be expected to affect a candidate’s appointment.

Final Candidate: The candidate who will be offered the position. 

6.     Policy Statement

It is the policy of the University of Wisconsin System to use merit-based principles in the recruitment and selection process.  Recruitment must be an active process consistent with sound personnel management practices and done in a manner to recruit a diverse, highly qualified group of applicants.  Selection must be made according to merit selection principles through a competitive process.  As appropriate, internal recruitment may be utilized if consistent with equal employment and affirmative action objectives as well as UW System institutional policies or practices.

UW System institutions must consider affirmative action principles and inclusive excellence in all recruitments to ensure that equal employment opportunity, diversity, and affirmative action goals are addressed.  Depending on institutional policies or practices, this may include, but is not limited to, activities such as participation in review and/or approval of a recruitment plan which includes consideration of affirmative action goals and targets for advertising to increase diversity of pools, appointment and orientation of search and screen committee members, development of inclusive position descriptions, development of interview questions, and review of finalists.

UW System institutions provide equal employment opportunity by ensuring that all personnel actions including hire, promotion, tenure, and any term, condition, or privilege of employment are based on the ability to perform the duties and responsibilities assigned to the particular position without regard to age, race, creed or religion, color, disability, sex, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran status, marital status or political affiliation.

A. Responsibilities

UW System institution human resource departments are responsible for providing oversight and guidance during the recruitment process.  UW System institutions may also delegate recruitment responsibilities to other appropriate departments and designate who is authorized to respond to reference checks on behalf of the institution.

B. Required Questions for the Final Candidate

At a minimum, a final candidate must be asked prior to hire whether they:

  • were ever found to have engaged in any employee misconduct (violations of law, company or university rule or policy, including sexual violence or sexual harassment policies, or conduct that adversely affected their performance of job responsibilities and that may reasonably be expected to affect a candidate’s appointment.)
  • are currently under investigation or have ever left employment during an active investigation in which they were accused of employee misconduct, sexual violence, or sexual harassment

Sample questions can be found in Appendix 4.

C. Obtaining Employment References

Job related reference information is required as part of the recruitment and selection process for all prospective employees.

When to ask: Reference checks must be performed, at a minimum, for a final candidate for any UW System institution position prior to hire.

What to ask: When checking references, it is a good practice to ask whether disciplinary problems were encountered.  At a minimum, reference check questions must be asked about a final candidate prior to hire as to whether they:

  • were ever found to have engaged in any employee misconduct (violations of law, company or university rule or policy, including sexual violence or sexual harassment, or conduct that adversely affected the performance of their job responsibilities)
  • are currently under investigation or have ever left employment during an active investigation in which they were accused of employee misconduct, sexual violence, or sexual harassment

Additional guidance on reference check questions can be found in Appendix 2Appendix 3, and Appendix 4 .

Who to ask: Reference checks must be conducted at a minimum with a final candidate’s most recent employer and with all previous UW System institution and state agency employers from the past seven years.

Appendix 2 contains general guidance on conducting reference checks and Appendix 3 provides sample reference check questions.

Other considerations: The application process must include a requirement for applicants to disclose any prior UW System or other Wisconsin state agency employment. Depending on the specific facts, past misconduct is not an automatic disqualifier. Reference information that reveals past misconduct (including any violation of sexual violence or sexual harassment policies) must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis prior to making any hiring decisions, and when appropriate, legal counsel should be consulted.

D. Providing Employment References

UW System institutions must follow certain minimum procedures when a potential employer makes a reference check regarding a current or former employee.

The potential employer should receive an objective evaluation of the candidate’s training, experience, skills, abilities, and job performance as they relate to the duties and responsibilities of the job for which the candidate is being considered.

When a supervisor or agent of management is contacted by a potential employer for a reference check of a current or former employee, the supervisor or agent must notify the potential employer, even if they do not ask, of the appropriate UW System institution contact for any questions related to employee misconduct (violations of law, university rule or policy; including any violation of sexual violence or sexual harassment policies; or conduct that adversely affects the employee’s performance of their job responsibilities). The appropriate UW System institution contact must disclose whether the employee has ever been found to have engaged in, is currently under investigation for, or left during an active investigation in which they were accused of employee misconduct, including sexual violence, or sexual harassment.  In making this disclosure, if an investigation was not completed or is not yet complete, the UW System institution contact should state that the institution has not made a determination as to whether the misconduct occurred.  If an investigation is ongoing, the institution contact should provide an estimate for the date the investigation will be completed.

When the potential employer is another UW System institution or state agency, the personnel file of the current or former employee must be shared upon hire (see SYS 1261, Personnel Files).

Sample language and procedures can be found in Appendix 4.

E.   Candidate’s Right to Comment Regarding Adverse Disclosure

If, through self disclosure via section 6.B or through a reference check via section 6.C or D, adverse information regarding the candidate is disclosed to the hiring institution, the candidate shall be given an opportunity to offer their explanation for the alleged misconduct as well as provide any mitigating information they would like the hiring authority to consider when making a decision about the candidate’s application.

F. Special considerations under the Wisconsin Public Records Law

Wis. Stat. § 19.36(7)(b) provides that applicants for positions may indicate in writing that their identity should be kept confidential.  Except for certain high-level positions described below, only the identity of the individual who is hired for the position may be the subject of a public records request.

The following confidentiality language should be included in all UW job announcements (except for those for high-level positions described below):

The University of Wisconsin System will not reveal the identities of applicants who request confidentiality in writing, except that the identity of the successful candidate will be released. See Wis. Stat. §. 19.36(7).

For the positions of President, Vice President, or Senior Vice President of the University of Wisconsin System; Chancellor, and Vice Chancellor, who serves as deputy at each institution (usually the Provost), the following confidentiality language should be included in the UW job announcement:

The University of Wisconsin System will not reveal the identities of applicants who request confidentiality in writing, except that the identities of finalists must be revealed upon request. See Wis. Stat. §. 19.36(7).

G. Letters of Appointment

The terms and conditions of an appointment should be specified in a written letter of appointment.  The appointment letter must be signed by an authorized official of the UW System institution and should contain details regarding the following:

  • type of appointment (e.g., fixed term, probationary, or expectation of continued employment);
  • duration of the appointment (starting date, ending date);
  • salary (hourly for nonexempt; salary for exempt);
  • general position responsibilities;
  • definition of operational area;
  • duration of the probationary period (if appropriate); and
  • recognition of prior service as part of the probationary period (if appropriate).

Accompanying the appointment letter must be an attachment or link detailing the applicable UW System institution employment regulations, rules, and procedures.  If the appointment is subject to the approval of the Board of Regents, a statement to this effect must be included in the letter.

If the Criminal Background Check (CBC) or reference check process cannot be completed before an offer is made, the appointment letter must state that the offer will be withdrawn, or the employment terminated if the individual’s CBC or reference results are unacceptable. The following statement must be used in the appointment letter:

This offer of employment is conditional pending the results of a criminal background check and a reference check process that includes questions regarding sexual violence and sexual harassment. If the results are unacceptable, the offer will be withdrawn or, if you have started employment, your employment will be terminated.

7.     Related Documents

Appendix 1– Options for Staff Recruitment and Assessment

Appendix 2 – Reference Check Guidelines

Appendix 3 – Reference Check Questions

Appendix 4 – Sample Language Recommendations for Questions and Disclaimers

Appendix 5 – HR Frequently Asked Questions

Appendix 6 – Reference Check Release Form

Regent Policy Document 14-2, Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment
UW System Administrative Policy 420, Travel & Expense – Meal and Incidental Expense (M&IE) Per Diem allowance Reimbursements
UW System Administrative Policy 1261, Personnel Files

8.     Policy History

Revision 3:                March, 18, 2024

Revision 2:                 December 21, 2022

Revision 1:                 October 14, 2019

First approved:         July 1, 2015

9.     Scheduled Review

October 2029