Articles Posted in Civil Service Law

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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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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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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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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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The Civil Service Commission

The New Jersey Civil Service System is governed by the Civil Service Act and Civil Service Regulations.  Chapter 2 of Title 11A of the Civil Service Act, N.J.S.A. 11A:2-1, et seq., establishes the  New Jersey Civil Service Commission (thestone-judge-778488-m-thumb-240x320-71245-thumb-220x293-71246-thumb-220x293-71247 “Commission”).   The Commission is a department of the executive branch of the New Jersey State Government.  Administratively it is part of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Nonetheless, it operates as an independent agency.  It is free from control of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The Commission has five members.  Three members are required for a forum.  This has led to a backlog of cases when less than three have been appointed.

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Some complain that civil service hinders efficient government.  Managers object that it limits their ability to run their organizations by hiring, firing and imposing discipline as they believe best.  Citizens argue it makes it too hard to get rid of “bad apples.”  Employees believe it makes promotions and transfers too difficult.  Applicants think the system makes it too hard to get hired.  All these criticisms are valid, to a point. megaphone-1480342__340-300x200 However, they miss the mark because they focus on the trees but miss the forest.  Life is a series of tradeoffs; every decision is a cost/benefit analysis.

New Jersey’s Civil Service System was adopted to combat grave problems with state and local government.  New Jersey has a long history of government corruption; it is by no means a new phenomenon.  This history includes a “spoils system” which gave election winners the power to award jobs to their supporters, bribery, favoritism, nepotism, cronyism and discrimination in hiring and keeping government jobs.  It was a disgrace.  New Jersey was – and is – hardly alone in these problems, but New Jersey took it to another level. Without civil service these problems would continue unchecked.  It’s not perfect, but New Jersey is a far better place because of civil service.

In 1908, the early Twentieth Century Progressive Movement led New Jersey to adopt its first civil service laws, and to establish the Civil Service Commission to regulate civil service practices.  Then, in 1947, a constitutional convention was held at Rutgers University, in which a new Constitution was adopted.  The goal of the constitutional convention was to reform many areas of New Jersey’s state and local government.  Article VII, section 1 of the New Jersey Constitution of 1947 provided that:

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A recent appellate New Jersey employment law decision in the case of In the Matter of F.S., Police Officer (S9999U), City of Jersey City outlines the procedures for appeals by applicants who were removed from a list of eligible candidates for civil service law enforcement orjoe-b-300x200 firefighter positions for psychological reasons.  While the candidate lost his appeal, the Appellate Division’s opinion should give candidates faith that they will receive a fair shake before the Medical Review Panel and New Jersey Civil Service Commission.

F.S.’s Application with the Jersey City Police Department

F.S. passed the civil service test and received a conditional offer of employment to become a police officer with the Jersey City Police Department, a civil service employer.  The offer was conditioned upon F.S.’s successful completion of a psychological examination.

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Government employees receive significant due process rights to challenge employer discipline which private sector employees and employees in non-civil service jurisdictions do not enjoy.  However, because New Jersey employment law recognizes the great responsibility placed on law enforcement officers, the Legislature has enacted robust procedures for police officers not covered by civil service to appeal discipline to the Superior Court.  Nonetheless, in the case of Miller vs. Borough of Berlin Police, the Appellate Division reminds us that the burden of proof remains on the officer and evidence is king.


Jason Miller was a police officer with the Borough of Berlin Police Department, a non-civil service jurisdiction.  He was dispatched to a banquet hall because of a report of the theft of a purse.  Surveillance video showed an employee taking the purse, the manager gave Officer Miller the employee’s name and address, and Miller took a victim statement.  Miller told the victim that the employee was clearly identifiable and would be charged with a crime (as the victim told him she wished), and that the case was a “slam dunk.”  However, Miller did not follow up or press charges, and stated in the incident report that the victim did not wish to pursue criminal charges.  Several days later the victim called the Department to follow up.  Another officer took the call, and eventually other officers arrested the employee, who confessed.

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