Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development
Timeline History: 1940-1959

In 1941, the federal Fair Employment Practices Commission was established to hear complaints of racial discrimination in war related industries.


Racial Discrimination in War Related Industries

On January 1, 1942 the Wisconsin Employment Service was federalized as part of the war effort. This moved oversight and administration to a federal level.


In 1943, the Wisconsin Industrial Commission was moved from the Capital Building to 1 West Wilson St., the new state office building in Madison. In 1943, the commission had 370 employees. The minimum wage was 16 to 22 cents.

During World War II, women became a vital labor resource for war materials production.


Walter Samuel Goodland

Women Working in Ammunition Plant
Women in Ammunition Plant

Wisconsin became one of first three states to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin or ancestry in employment. This law became known as the Fair Employment Law.

Protections were subsequently added for: age 40 and over (1959); gender (1961); disability (1965); arrest or conviction record (1977); marital status (1982); sexual orientation (1982); membership in the national guard, state defense force or any other reserve component of the military forces (1987); and use or nonuse of lawful products, such as tobacco, off the employer's premises during nonworking hours, i.e., smoker's rights legislation (1991). The prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation was the first so-called "gay rights" law in the nation.


The Apprenticeship Division became the state approval agency for veterans enrolled in apprenticeship or on-the-job training under the GI Bill.


Oscar Rennebohm (1947-1951)
Walter Jodok Kohler, Jr.

Wisconsin administers the Social Security Disability program through the vocational rehabilitation agency.

1952 thru 1955

Vernon Wallace Thomson

Additional Commissioners:
R.G. Knutson (1952-63)
Arthur Enright (1953-59)
John H. Rouse (1955-61)

Legislation makes it illegal in Wisconsin to discriminate on the basis of age in employment.

Legislation to prohibit discrimination for organizations having contracts with the state.

In 1959, the legislature granted bargaining rights to local government workers.


Gaylord Anton Nelson

Additional Commissioner:
Mathlas F. Schlmenz (1959-65)

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