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New Jersey Civil Service Testing and Examination Appeals

The key to New Jersey Civil Service hiring and promotion is the examination.  The State Constitution and New Jersey Civil Service Act require merit-based appointments based, whenever possible, on examinations.

Announcements.  The New Jersey Civil Service Commission is responsible for administrating examinations which fairly test applicants’ mulitple-choice-exam-300x200knowledge, skills and abilities for the job.  Announcements are posted on the Commission’s website, and provided by the employer. Announcements include title, salary information, admission qualifications, filing information, and duties and responsibilities. No unannounced requirements can be considered.  Applications must be filed by the announced date.  The applicant must be a resident of New Jersey and the specified local jurisdiction, unless a different residency requirement is specified or there are not enough available qualified residents.  Applicants for municipal law enforcement or firefighter positions must be under 35 for open competitive examinations, except that applicants under 45 may subtract prior law enforcement experience to meet the 35 year age requirement.  Veterans may subtract their service from their age to determine eligibility.

Types of Examinations.  Examinations may be written; oral; performance evaluation; physical performance tests; assessment exercises; and evaluation of education, training and experience.  The goal is to objectively measure an applicant’s fitness and merit.  Thus, while subjectivity in developing an examination is not forbidden, it must be limited.

Promotional Examinations.  Vacancies are filled by promotional examinations unless an exception applies. Applicants for promotional examinations must have one year of continuous permanent service, or three years for firefighters and law enforcement officers in local service, and must meet all requirements.  The time requirements may be reduced to completion of a working test period if a complete promotional list is unavailable, the number of eligible applicants is insufficient for a complete list, or there will be more vacancies than eligibles.  The Commission may establish an eligible list without competitive examinations if the possible eligible applicants interested in the position is not more than two greater than the number of appointments to be made.

Open Competitive Examinations.  Open competitive examinations are open to public applicants who meet the requirements. They are usually used for entry level positions, but are not required to be used then, nor are they limited to entry level.  They can be used when the title is entry level; less than three qualified employees in lower titles are available; there fewer than three more qualified employee candidates in lower titles than vacancies; current or anticipated vacancies could not filled from a promotional examination before the list would be exhausted; or a vacancy requires special, technical or professional qualifications employees in lower titles are not required to possess.

 Attendance.  Candidates must be on time.  They will be admitted to written examinations only 15 minutes after the start, and to oral examinations or examinations containing oral and performance parts only within 30 minutes after if the last scheduled candidate has not started the examination. Candidates admitted late receive the full time.

Make-Up Exams. A candidate who passes a make-up examination will be added to the eligible list (although prior appointments from that list will not be affected). Make-up candidates must certify that they have no knowledge of the examination’s content. Make-up examinations for public safety jobs must be different in content from the original.  To be eligible the candidate must request a make-up in writing within five days after the examination date. However, if the candidate was aware of the relevant circumstance upon receipt of the notice, she must submit a written request within five days of receipt. Generally, make-up examinations may be authorized because of employer or Commission error;  a candidate’s serious illness or disability; death or serious illness in the immediate family; natural disaster; certain military duty; prior vacation or travel plans outside New Jersey or any contiguous state; and other valid reasons (professional engineering examinations have more stringent requirements). Make-up examinations for law enforcement officers and firefighters may be authorized only for death in the immediate family; error by the employer or New Jersey Civil Service Commission; or a “catastrophic health condition or injury,” which is either life-threatening, or requires the candidate’s absence for 60 or more work days.  When a current employee returns from military leave she may take promotional examinations which have not yet been administered, or take make-up examinations for active promotional lists for which she was eligible while on military leave.

Scoring.  The Commission is responsible for “rating” (ie., scoring) examinations.  Procedures must be implemented to minimize subjectivity, especially in oral examinations. A valid statistical method, based on “scoring formulas and/or conversion tables” must be used.  When an examination has more than one part, each may be rated independently.  Candidates must meet the minimum standard for each part; failure on one part causes failure of the entire examination and ineligibility for the remaining parts.  Volunteer firefighters receive additional credits when their employer creates paid positions if they have served at least two years; if the volunteer passes, one point will be added for each year of service plus one additional point for a maximum of ten points.

Seniority.  The New Jersey Civil Service Commission calculates seniority.  The following will not be deducted: voluntary furloughs; paid leaves, including sick leave; leaves for military service, education, gubernatorial appointment, disability time; family leave; furlough extension; leaves taken as voluntary alternative to layoff; leave to fill elective office; continuous permanent service prior to an intergovernmental transfer (except for police officers or firefighters).  Other unpaid leaves, and suspensions and layoffs will be deducted.  When computing seniority for local service police and fire examinations, disciplinary suspensions during the previous five years are deducted.  When computing seniority for employees reappointed from a special reemployment list, their periods of service will be considered as having been continuous.  However, the time between when the employee was laid off or demoted in lieu of layoff and reappointment will be deducted.

Examination Security.  The New Jersey Civil Service Commission is responsible for examination security.  The Commission’s Regulations prohibit:

  • Unauthorized persons having any questions;
  • Unauthorized persons having information about the number or identity of applicants before an eligible list is issued;
  • Identification of an applicant’s work or examination papers prior to all examinations having been scored;
  • Impersonating an applicant;
  • Using or attempting to use unpermitted aids, information or assistance;
  • Copying or attempting to copy from another person; and
  • Copying any question or answer, and/or removing any anything related to the content of an examination.

Anyone engaging in a prohibited action is disqualified and may be subject to punishment.  The Commission may modify or eliminate the review of examination questions and answers in order to maintain examination security.

Substitute Qualifications.  Applicants for professional positions unable to meet higher education requirements may substitute work experience.  For example, College Level Examination Program (“CLEP”) scores may substitute for college credits required for examinations.  Applicants may sometimes establish eligibility with a combination of CLEP scores, education, and work experience.  Acceptable scores on CLEP General and Subject Examinations may be considered the same as up to 30 college undergraduate credits for determining eligibility.

Examination Process Appeals.  Applicants may appeal rejection of an application, failure of an examination and removal from an eligible list resulting from the examination and appointment process.  Appealable process items include:

  • examination items;
  • scoring and administration;
  • disqualification for medical or psychological reasons;
  • alleged failure to meet the job requirements;
  • ineligibility;
  • examination procedures;
  • termination without a hearing;
  • disqualification based on employment history;
  • alleged false statement, fraud or deception;
  • failure to timely complete the application process;
  • failure to provide required documentation;
  • list extensions or revivals;
  • denial of veterans preference;
  • other sufficient cause.

The burden of proof is on the appellant, except for medical or psychological disqualification appeals where the employer bears the burden.  Appeals will generally not affect issuance of a list, a certification or an appointment.  An applicant who has filed an appeal may, where appropriate, be admitted to the examination, although her results will not be processed while the appeal is pending.

Review and Appeal of Examination Items, Scoring and Administration. Candidates have a limited right to review their questions and answers.  The Commission has broad discretion to develop procedures which provide for some form of review but also ensure security for examination questions.  Candidates for multiple choice examinations may contact the Commission by telephone request an appointment for review within five days after the examination. Candidates cannot copy any questions or answers, but may take limited notes.  Candidates for multiple choice examinations may appeal job-relatedness or appropriateness of test questions. Candidates who reviewed the test must appeal within five business days after review.  All other candidates may file an appeal within five business days from the examination date.

Candidates may also appeal the scoring of their test papers. They may review their examination papers and the scoring key 20 days after date of the notice of the examination results. These candidates may file appeals within this 20-day period only regarding scoring.

Candidates for other than multiple choice examinations may contact the Commission by telephone to make an appointment to review within five business days after the examination.  Candidates may appeal examination items and scoring within 20 days after the review. Candidates who do not request a review must file an appeal within 20 days of the notice date of the results.

Candidates challenging the manner in which an examination was administered must file an appeal in writing at the examination site on the day of the examination.

Contact Us.  Our New Jersey employment attorneys represent New Jersey state and local government employees in all aspects of New Jersey employment law, including civil service appeals.  Call us at (973) 890-0004 or fill out the contact form to schedule a consultation.  We can help.