Converting from SPS to a Civil Service Position

Civil Service employment is governed by the State Universities Civil Service System (SUCSS) statutes, the NIU Board of Trustee Regulations, and university policies and procedure.  Many Civil Service positions are also under the auspices of a labor agreement, which may have additional work rules, salary implications, and stipulations.

Employees who are in a Supportive Professional Staff (SPS) position and are converted to Civil Service either voluntarily or because of a SUCSS audit findings, will be covered under Civil Service and NIU terms of employment on the first day in the Civil Service position. As a result of moving from Supportive Professional Staff to Civil Service employment, the employee can expect the following changes:

  • Vacation accrual must be accrued prior to use.
  • Vacation accrual for non-exempt employees ranges from 12 and 25 days, depending on years of service.
  • Vacation accrual for exempt employees ranges from 25 and 28 days, depending on years of service.
  • Employee accrues seniority in Civil Service classifications and gains seniority rights.
  • Position may become eligible for overtime based on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) determination.
  • Position may be represented by a union, based on the classification.
  • The notice rights in the Board of Trustee Regulations no longer apply.

Exemption Process

  1. Position/job description is received by HRS.
  2. HRS evalautes whether the position fits a civil service classification.
    • If yes, the position is classified as civil service.
    • If no, the position will be exempt from civil service (see exemption categories below).

Categories for positions where the duties do not fit a civil service classification:

  • 36(e)2 - Top level, primary administrator appointments - president, vice president, provost, etc.
  • 36(e)3 - Positions with high level authority and licensure - attorney, physician, etc. Additional information can be found in the SUCSS - Exemption Procedures Manual (page 3 and 4).
  • 36(e)4 - Positions aligned with the teaching, research and extension faculties - dean, associate dean, professor, assistant professor, associate professor, instructor, etc. Additional information can be found in the SUCSS - Exemption Procedures Manual (page 4 and 5).

Frequently Asked Questions

What is SUCSS?

The State Universities Civil Service System (SUCSS) was created and established on January 1, 1952 when the State Universities Civil Service Act was passed by the 67th General Assembly and became law. As defined by the Act, the “purpose of the University System is to establish a sound program of personnel administration for the Illinois Higher education community”. Enforcement authority for the provisions contained in the statute is delegated to the Merit Board and Executive Director of the SUCSS Office.

What is the SUCSS audit program?
All of the Illinois public universities are governed by the State Universities Civil Service System (SUCSS) and subject to the SUCSS Audit Program. On a biennial basis, an audit of the university’s personnel programs and procedures is conducted to ensure compliance with the provisions of the law.
What have been the findings related to SPS positions and what are the implications?
SUCSS determined that some jobs selected for review were inappropriately classified as Supportive Professional Staff. This was largely due to the fact that civil service classification specifications were updated after the position was classified as SPS.  Initially, NIU had the ability to convert the position when it became vacant. More recently, as a result of a SUCSS procedure change, the university will be required to convert the position and the employee to Civil Service within 16 months of the position being flagged as improperly exempted as SPS, either by the University or by SUCSS.
What is NIU’s compliance plan?
Based on the fact that NIU must now move the position and person if the position is determined to be aligned with a civil service classification, HRS will be reviewing the updated job descriptions for previously flagged positions. This will allow HRS to determine if the current duties outlined in the position description fit into a civil service classification. If the position does in fact fit a civil service classification, HRS will work with both the employee and supervisor to move the position. 
How is the compliance plan being communicated?
HRS has traditionally met with both the Operating Staff Council and SPS Council to discuss audit findings. HRS has also met with the Senior Leadership, Deans Council, and SPS Council regarding the procedure change. An HR web page is being created to host pertinent information.
What does it mean to say that a position will be converted to civil service?
Converting a position to civil service is the process of transitioning positions and incumbents from a SPS classification to a Civil Service classification. As position descriptions are reviewed, if it is determined that the duties outlined in the position description fit a Civil Service classification, the position and incumbent will be converted from SPS to Civil Service.
What makes a position SPS?

Based on the State Universities Civil Service System statute and rules, all positions are civil service unless the duties outlined in the job description do not align with a civil service classification. When a request is made to create or refill a position, the Employment Services area within HRS reviews the position description and the duties outlined to determine if the preponderance of the duties fits a civil service classification. If it does then the position, is civil service. If it does not, then the position can be classified as SPS.

How long does an appeal take?
As appeals are reviewed and adjudicated by SUCSS, the timeframe will be determined by them. NIU will facilitate your efforts to document and submit the appeal in a timely manner.
I have a degree; why is my job Civil Service?
This is a common misunderstanding; a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree does not preclude placement in a Civil Service classification; in fact, there are many civil service classifications that require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree.
Are there benefits to being a Civil Service employee?
One of the biggest differences in Civil Service employment is employees within the Civil Service system acquire seniority. An employee who has more seniority in the same title or promotional line, and whose position is being eliminated, can displace a less senior employee in the same title or promotional line.
Can we get a list of the flagged positions that we are reviewing to make this change?
Roughly 200+ positions were initially flagged but it’s a moving target and many have been vacated, reviewed and refilled. We are analyzing positions case by case as they come forward for refill or review as we have always done.  Divisions have been provided with lists of their flagged positions so employees may inquire within their chain of command or contact HR if they would like to know if their position has been flagged (supervisors should be communicating this information to employees.)  In order to uphold privacy and confidentiality expectations HR would not be in a position to openly share specific positions that have been flagged.  As an FYI, SUCSS will be on campus for the next NIU audit and they may examine or interview their own list of positions for appropriate exemption status.
What is the difference between benefits as SPS vs. Civil Service?
Generally both groups of employees have access to the same benefits (CMS, SURS, Vacation, Sick, etc.). There are variations in benefit eligibility for SPS depending on the position status (regular or temporary) and length of appointment (9 months, 10 months, etc.) that do not apply to civil service positions. Paid-Time-Off (e.g. vacation and sick leave) benefits are different and the calculation and accrual methodologies can vary significantly based on the employee’s FLSA exemption status and years of service. A summary of benefits provided are listed on the HRS website.
If I am converted to civil service will I have seniority in the classification in which I am placed? How is that seniority determined?
In accordance with SUCSS statute and rules, Human Resource Services will look at how long the employee has been doing the work associated with that classification and that will be used as the seniority date. For example, if an employee hired as a Project Coordinator twenty years ago will be converted to a program coordinator, the employee will have twenty years of seniority in the civil service classification. If an individual was hired into a civil service clerical position twenty years ago and transferred to a SPS project coordinator title four years ago, the employee will have four years of seniority when moved to civil service. 
If an employee’s position is converted to civil service does the employee have to serve a probation period?
Each civil service classification can carry either a six or 12 month probation period. An employee moved from SPS to CS will not be required to serve a probationary period if the time they have worked in the classification exceeds the probationary period assigned to the classification, (see If I am converted to civil service will I have seniority in the classification in which I am placed? How is that seniority determined?.) If the time worked in the classification is less than the probationary period, the employee will be required to serve the remainder of the probationary period.
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