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A recent New Jersey employment law decision examined the procedures for reopening a Civil Service disciplinary appeal because of newly discovered evidence.

The Newsom Case

In the case of In the Matter of Kevin Newsom, New Jersey State Prison, Kevin Newsom, a civil service employee, was terminated as a corrections sergeant by the Newdc-court-appeals-district-columbia-building-abraham-lincoln-statue-74985350 Jersey State Prison.

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New Jersey Civil Service law give a hiring preference to “veterans” which ranks them higher on eligible lists if they otherwise meet the eligibility requirements.  This is known as the Civil Service veterans preference.

However, not everyone who is considered a “veteran” by the Federal Government, military, or Veterans Administration is eligible for the civil service veterans preference.No photo description available.  Eligible veterans include only those who received a discharge not characterized as dishonorable and who served at least 90 days in World War I and World War II, or who served at least 14 days in the operations area in the following conflicts: the Korean War; the Vietnam War; the Lebanon Crisis of 1958; the Lebanon peacekeeping mission in the 1980s; the Grenada peacekeeping mission in 1983; the Panama peacekeeping mission; Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm; Operation Northern Watch and Operation Southern Watch; Operation Restore Hope in Somalia; Operations Joint Endeavor and Joint Guard in Bosnia; Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti (if the veteran received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for their Haitian service); Operation Enduring Freedom; and Operation Iraqi Freedom. “Veterans” also include service members receiving injuries in those operations regardless of the length of their service in them.

Disabled veterans” are “veterans” of those conflicts who receive compensation of at least ten percent for a service-connected disability arising out of those defined operations.  Certain spouses and parents are also eligible if the veteran or disabled veteran does not or cannot use the preference.

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Background

Given the ability of civil service employees to appeal major discipline to the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, as opposed to the extremely limited avenues to challenge minor discipline (fines or suspensions of five business days or less), one avenue an employer might take to make it difficult or impossible for employees to challenge discipline is to make sure that it falls under the definition of minor discipline.  Why might an unscrupulous civil service employer want to do this?  By making it difficult for

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an employee to challenge discipline, a supervisor could build up a record of repeated discipline, which could then be used to justify terminating the employee under the doctrine of progressive discipline.

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The bedrock principle of New Jersey Civil Service law is that merit and fitness should be the only factor considered in employment decisions, and discrimination, nepotism, cronyism, politics and bribery should be eliminated in public sector employment.  The gateway to this system is the New Jersey Civil Service examination process, which ensures that hiring and promotion are based on merit, not other impermissible considerations. Indeed, the New Jersey Constitution requires that whenevernational-gallery-of-art-1380105-m-300x248 possible, merit and fitness for hiring and promotions be determined by examination.  The New Jersey Civil Service Act and Regulations implement this constitutional principle.  Therefore, the principal means for determining merit and fitness for hiring and promotion of classified, career, permanent civil service employees is the New Jersey Civil Service examination process, which is administered by the New Jersey Civil Service Commission.

Obviously, then, civil service examinations are extremely important to applicants for hiring and promotion.  But the human condition is that mistakes occur, and the New Jersey Civil Service system is administered by humans, and so mistakes are made. Therefore there is a process for appeals.  Our New Jersey civil service attorneys represent state and local government employees in all aspects of New Jersey employment law, including civil service appeals.

Below is an overview of the New Jersey Civil Service examination system, and how candidates for hiring or promotion can appeal when a mistake is made.

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New Jersey’s Civil Service System was enacted to keep politics, discrimination, favoritism out of employment decisions.  Therefore, civil service employees may only be disciplined for “just cause.”  The New Jersey and Federal Constitutions require that before any  government body may take action against anyone they must receive due process, which is notice, the right to be heard, and fundamental fairness.  Since government employers, even acting in their role as employers, are still the government, tenure-thumb-170x110-48818 employees must receive due process before they can be disciplined.  The New Jersey Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Commission’s regulations implementing it provide that due process to employees.

Written Notice and the Opportunity for a Hearing 

When a government employer wants to discipline a civil service a permanent, career service employee or an employee in a working test period, it must give the employee written notice of the charges and specifications alleged against her (specifications are a statement of the facts underlying the charges) and the opportunity for a hearing at the employer level by the governmental jurisdiction or its designee.  The employer must hold the hearing within 30 days of the notice unless the employee waives her right it.

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Current estate tax law demonstrates why it is so important to consult with a New Jersey estate administration and planning attorney.

A deceased individual’s estate is entitled to an exemption from Federal Estate Taxagreement-3476369__340-300x217 currently in the amount of $12,060,000.00.  However, since a surviving spouse pays no Federal Estate Tax on inheritances from the deceased spouse, the surviving spouse is permitted to claim the deceased spouse’s exemption for use upon the death of the surviving spouse.  When creating an estate plan and upon the death of the first spouse, a New Jersey estate attorney must consider whether the surviving spouse would benefit from claiming the deceased spouse’s exemption.  In order to claim that exemption, a Federal Form 706 Estate Tax must be prepared and filed.

The surviving spouse and her estate attorney must decide if it is beneficial to use the estate tax exemption of the first spouse to die at that time.  The decedent spouse’s estate may be valued far in excess of the exemption amount, and the deceased spouse’s exemption should be used to create a credit shelter trust that will allow assets to appreciate and accumulate outside the surviving spouse’s estate.

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Background.   New Jersey Civil Service exists remove favoritism, nepotism, politics and other improper considerations from employment decisions.  This includes Civil Service discipline.  Because Civil Service employers are governmental entities, due process and fundamental fairness protections govern discipline.supreme-administrative-court-3565618_960_720-300x200

As far back as 1961, the Appellate Division gave a good summary of Civil Service disciplinary procedures.

Disciplinary proceedings against a civil servant are not only an attempt to determine the status of a particular individual; they are a statutorily authorized action to redress a wrong committed against the people of the State by one in whom the public trust has been officially reposed. The proceedings are therefore penal, or at least quasi-penal, in nature, and deeply embedded constructional principles, supported by fundamental notions of fairness, dictate that in such an action the statute or regulation defining the alleged violation be construed to comport with the fair meaning of the language used. The theme of fairness threads its way through the notice, hearing, and right of appeal provisions of our Civil Service Act, and finds particular pertinence in those sections requiring that the causes for removal constituting ‘just cause’ be enumerated with specificity. The governing consideration, that one be fairly and completely advised of the nature of the charges against him, loses all effectiveness if it is not reinforced by a requirement that the proscribed activities and contingencies warranting disciplinary proceedings be set forth with reasonable particularity and construed accordingly.

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The Appellate Division recently issued a Nhttps://www.newjerseylawyersblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/195/2022/02/joe-b-2..2jpg-200x300.jpgew Jersey employment law decision in the case of Levis v. City of Hackensack which should be instructive to New Jerseycivil service employees settling disciplinary charges.

Background

Richard Levis was a lieutenant on the Hackensack Police Department a civil service jurisdiction.  He filed suit against Hackensack for breaching the terms of a settlement agreement resolving earlier disciplinary charges against him.

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Under the New Jersey public employment law and Title 18A of New Jersey statute, which governs New Jersey employment law for public school and public college employees, if an employee is actually performing the work of a particular position, even though they are designated in another, they must receive the compensation for the job they are working in.  In other words, public employers can’t underpay employeesbully-3233568__340-300x272 by having them fill a higher or more difficult position while paying them for a lower or less difficult one.  The Appellate Division recently examined these statutes.

The De Facto Employee Laws

Title 18A provides that:

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In General. The New Jersey Civil Service Act establishes three classes of civil service employees: Career (or “classified”), unclassified and, in State service, the Senior Executive Service.   The New Jersey Civil Service Commission has the job of classifying positions – it is the positions which are classified, not people. tenure-thumb-170x110-48818

Classification.  Each position in the career and unclassified services are then assigned to a job title by the Commission.  It specifies the qualifications, duties and responsibilities for each title.  It does this through a classification plan for all State government positions and similar plans for political subdivisions.  When necessary, the Commission will modify specifications to ensure their accuracy.  It is also responsible for notifying appointing authorities and employees of changes in classification plans which effect them.

Public employees in New Jersey Civil Service  must be appointed under a title which corresponds to the duties which the employee actually performs.  The employer’s authority to assign terms of office or employment is a limited by the terms of the classification plan. Appointing authorities are required to notify the Commission of new positions, organizational changes, or changes to employee responsibilities; they must annually submit updated organizational charts.  In State service, the negotiations representative (ie., the union) must be given notice of changes to the plan, including: reorganizations of titles or title series, or requests for new ones; request for reevaluation of job content; requests for modification of job specifications; and changes to flextime programs, alternate workweek programs and or hours.

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