Law Dictionary

Civil Service Act

Law 5 U.S.C. § 1101 et seq., formerly 5 U.S.C. § 632 et seq. (1883)
  1. established the tradition and mechanism of permanent federal employment based on merit rather than on political party affiliation (the spoils system). Civil service reform became a leading issue in the midterm elections of 1882. In January 1883, Congress passed a comprehensive civil service bill sponsored by Senator George H. Pendleton of Ohio, providing for the open selection of government employees—to be administered by a Civil Service Commission—and guaranteeing the right of citizens to compete for federal appointment without regard to politics, religion, race, or national origin. Only about 10 percent of the positions in the federal government were covered by the new law, but nearly every president after Chester A. Arthur, who signed the bill into law, broadened its scope. By 1990 more than 90 percent of federal employees were protected by the Act.

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