What is a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action?
A Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action, also known as a PNDA or a Form 31-A, is a New Jersey Civil Service form which notifies an employee that her employer seeks to impose discipline, including an immediate suspension in some cases.
What should I do if I receive a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action?
The PNDA will notify you of how long you have to request a hearing on the charges with your employer. If you desire a hearing, you should file a written request for an appeal within that time.
Should I request a hearing with my employer?
There is not a clear-cut answer. In many cases it depends on the employer. Some employers have insider or outside hearing officers who give the employee a fair shot; in this case you should definitely request a hearing if the discipline is not deserved. Many more, however, either use internal or external hearing officers who tend to rubber stamp the employer’s decision. However, in civil service discipline, if the discipline is upheld by the hearing officer and your employer your next level appeal will be to the New Jersey Civil Service Commission where either a Commission staff member or an administrative law judge will look at the discipline. So really it can’t hurt, but it doesn’t necessarily help.
However, if you intend to sue rather than challenge the discipline in the New Jersey Civil Service Commission (see below), it is possible that an adverse decision by a hearing officer could be used as evidence against you in court, or at least in settlement negotiations.
What is a Final Notice of Disciplinary Action?
A Final Notice of Disciplinary Action, also known as an FNDA or a Form 31-B, is a New Jersey Civil Service Form which notifies an employee that her employer has imposed final discipline, whether a hearing was held or not.
What should I do if I receive a Final Notice of Disciplinary Action?
You have several options. First, you can file a written notice of appeal with the New Jersey Civil Service Commission. This must normally be received by the Commission within 20 days of the date of the FNDA, although some appeals have shorter time periods. (Read the FNDA!)
Depending on the facts, you might also have the option to file a lawsuit in either New Jersey Superior Court of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. However, while the Civil Service Commission will look at whether the employer was right or wrong, a court will only look at whether your employer violated a statute, such as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (also known as the NJLAD) or the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (also known as CEPA of the New Jersey Whistleblower Act). You have longer statutes of limitations to file a lawsuit in court, but the cases take significantly longer. Also, while the Civil Service Commission can only award back pay, and in limited circumstances attorneys fees, courts can also award front pay and punitive damages.
Do I need an employment attorney?
You do not need an attorney to represent you. However, an experienced New Jersey employment attorney can certainly help. Your employer will have an attorney at the New Jersey Civil Service Commission or court level, and often at the department hearing as well. An experienced New Jersey Civil Service attorney can help you navigate the complex procedural rules in court or at the Civil Service Commission, and will also be more experienced in gathering and presenting evidence. Having an experienced employment attorney is a huge plus.
Do you represent employees in civil service discipline cases?
Yes, we do. We represent New Jersey civil service employees at employer level hearings, appeals before the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, and in the state and federal trial and appeals courts. You can contact us at (973) 890-0004 or fill out the contact form on this page to set up a consultation with one of our New Jersey employment attorneys. We can help.