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Appealing Civil Service Disqualification for Medical or Psychological Reasons

Our firm’s employment lawyers handle a significant number of New Jersey civil service issues.  One of the most vexing is removal from a list of eligibles because of medical or psychological disqualification.

Hiring for the vast majority of civil service jobs is determined by merit based on competitive examinations.  One thing that may disqualify an applicant is disqualification because of an alleged psychological or medical condition which would render the candidate unable to effectively perform the requirements of the job she is applying for.

Generally the disqualification will not happen until after the examination is complete, the results are tabulated, and a list of eligibles is generated.  Prior to an offer of employment being made the employer cannot require the applicant to submit to a medical or psychological examination.  After the offer of employment is made, however, the applicant may be required to submit to a medical or psychological examination as a condition of employment, provided that all other applicants to whom offers are extended are required to undergo an evaluation as well.  If the results indicate the applicant cannot perform the essential duties of her job because of a psychological or medical condition, the employer can request that the Civil Service Commission remove her name from the list.

If the Civil Service Commission agrees that the condition renders the applicant unable to perform the job, it must notify the applicant of the disqualification.  The triggering event for an appeal is notice that the candidate is disqualified for psychological or medical reasons.  Anyone who receives such a notice can appeal the disqualification. Appeals must be received by the Civil Service Commission within 20 days of the disqualification.

The prospective employer must provide copies of all relevant background information to the Civil Service Commission and the appealing applicant . This includes investigations, medical reports, and psychological or psychiatric reports.  The employee then can – and should – submit a report from the doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist of their choice.  The practical reality is that unless the appellant has an expert of her own, it will be difficult to overcome the professional opinion of the examining doctor or psychologist.  After receipt of all the documents from each side, the Civil Service Commission has several options.  It may retain the file and conduct a review based on the written record; it may refer psychological appeals to the New Jersey Personnel Medical Review Board, which is composed of psychological professionals; or it may refer medical appeals to the New Jersey Personnel Medical Examiners Panel, composed of medical professionals.  The Boards may request additional information or documentation. The appellant may submit a request to appear before the Boards; the request must be received by the Civil Service Commission within 10 days of the referral.

After completing their review, the Boards will send a report to the Civil Service Commission, with copies to the employer and employee.  The parties then have 10 days to file “exceptions” to the Boards’ recommendation (essentially to object to the recommendations in the report).  The Commission may also send the applicant to have another examination by an independent medical professional appointed by the Commission.  The Commission may decide the appeal on the written record or hold a hearing if there is a contested fact.

Unlike the normal removal appeal where the burden is on the appealing applicant, the burden of proof throughout the proceedings in psychological or medical appeals is on the employer. The employer must demonstrate the causal relationship between the personality trait and the unfitness for the job.

If the appeal is for disqualification from even taking the examination, the employee may still be admitted to take the test subject to the outcome of the appeal.

If you have been wrongfully removed from a list of eligible or have any other issues with the New Jersey civil service system, lawyers from our firm can help.  Call us at (973) 890-0004 or e-mail us to schedule an appointment for a consultation.  We can help.