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Wisconsin State Background Check Laws

In February 2016, Wisconsin’s governor signed Assembly Bill 373 into law, revamping the state’s civil service system. One provision of the bill prohibits state employers from asking applicants about their criminal history on job applications. They have to wait until an applicant has been certified as being qualified for the position to request a background check.

Dane County

In February 2014, the Dane County Executive removed the existing questions about criminal history from all county job applications in a deliberate effort to get those with records employed.


The Common Council of the City of Madison resolution to remove criminal history questions from city job applications (with some exceptions) was adopted in September 2014. City employers must wait until a conditional offer has been made. If an applicant is disqualified on the basis of their background check, they must be given specific notice of the disqualification.

In November 2015, Madison’s Common Council adopted an ordinance which applied these same criteria to city contractors on contracts exceeding $25,000. City contractors are not allowed to make any criminal background inquiries until they have extended a conditional offer to the applicant. Applicants can file complaints with Madison’s Department of Civil Rights. Monetary penalties can be assessed if an employer violates the ordinance.


Milwaukee’s Common Council of the City adopted a resolution in October 2016 requiring the removal of questions asking about an applicant’s criminal background on their city job applications. Once an applicant has been considered qualified and placed on the city’s “employee eligibility list,” a background check can be performed. 

The resolution covers city police and fire department positions, as permitted by law. Although the resolution only covers city positions, the language of the law encouraged all employers in the city to ban the box on their job applications.

Milwaukee County

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to ban the box from the county employment applications in October 2011.

Cities Include: Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine, Appleton, Waukesha, Oshkosh, Eau Claire and more.

Note: This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with your own legal counsel for advice related to your state/locality.