Appeals From Psychological or Medical Disqualification of Applicants for Law Enforcement or Firefighters Positions
Good afternoon. We are here today to talk about removal from eligible lists because of failure to pass a psychological exam.
The way the hiring process for firefighters and law enforcement officers in civil service goes in New Jersey is that first there is a job opening. It’s posted. Then the applicant will submit an application and take a test for the job.
If the applicant passes, he will be put on a list of eligibles for hire. His place on the list will be based on ranks which are determined by the scores on the test. If his number on the list is reached, then the appointing authority, the Town or the governmental body that is going to be hiring him for the position will make a conditional offer of employment and the conditional offer of employment will be based on passing a medical examination, a background investigation and a psychological examination. You will be told when and where to go for your psychological evaluation.
The reviewer will give written and oral examinations and based on those results they will generate a report finding the applicant fit or unfit. If the applicant is unfit, they will be removed from the list.
You will get a notice in the mail. Generally, it is a white piece of paper a little bit smaller than a regular page of legal paper and when you get that you will need to look at the date on that. You will have twenty days to file a written notice appeal with the Civil Service Commission. When that happens, a copy will go to the appointing authority which will then have twenty days to give the Civil Service Commission the entire record, including background investigations, application and the medical and psychological reports.
You will have ninety days from the date that you file that Notice of Appeal to submit your own psychological evaluation. In other words, you will get a psychologist or psychiatrist of your choice, have them examine you and if they find you fit, submit the report in your defense. That is probably the most critical part of the appeal. We have some great psychologists and psychiatrists that we work with. They are very fair, very exacting and don’t take anything that the prior evaluator said at face value.
Once that is done, the Civil Service Commission will look at those submissions and it has two choices. It can either decide the matter on the papers that are submitted or it can refer it to a medical review panel. If a psychological report is submitted by the job applicant, it almost always goes to a panel. At the panel, an independent body of professional psychiatrists or psychologists will look at the papers and if you choose to appear (which you have a right to do), examine you.
They are generally pretty fair. They are looking for a few things. The first thing that they are looking at is your credibility and whether you seem to be credible and honest and that is based on a few things. One is how you present yourself, but also there is a record that is coming in. There is the written test that you gave at the psychological interview as well as your background investigation and the application that you submitted. On that, you will give a bunch of information. For instance, criminal history; were you ever sued or sued anyone? Your job history, your health history, your drug and alcohol use. That should be consistent between your job application and what you told the psychologist. It should also be consistent with the background investigation. For instance, if you failed to disclose the drug use or alcohol use that came up in the background investigation or a criminal conviction or an unproven charge, that will show that you are not being honest and will hurt your credibility.
The second thing that they look for is when your symptoms of a prior mental or emotional condition occurred. For instance, what they are looking for in post traumatic stress disorder is whether the symptoms are recent or whether there has been a significant period since you had any symptoms of the condition. Again, it is important to disclose that and if the initial psychological evaluation says that you had recent symptoms and you haven’t, it is important for the second doctor, your own psychologist or psychiatrist, to make clear that you haven’t had recent symptoms and if there is anything you could get in writing or testimony from anyone else, that is also important.
We represent civil servants of all types, particularly law enforcement officers and firefighters, in appealing civil service actions particularly psychological disqualifications from the list. Our goal is to get you back on the list so that you can be hired. There is no such thing as a slam dunk case, but we have had some pretty good success; and the Civil Service Commission and the Medical Review Panel tend to be pretty fair. If you are taken off the list for failing a psychological evaluation, don’t think it is the end of the world. There are legitimate fair appeal routes and we are glad to help you. Give us a call at (973) 890-0004 or fill out the contact form on this webpage. Thank you.