There are many differences between New Jersey employment law which applies to all employees in both the public and private sectors, and New Jersey civil service law which applies to permanent, career service government employees in civil service jurisdictions. Generally, New Jersey civil service law provides more protections to public employees in civil service jurisdictions than private sectors employees receive. But before New Jersey civil service employees can become permanent and receive all the protections of the Civil Service System, they must successfully complete a working test period.
Working Test Periods
Under New Jersey civil service law, a “working test period” (formerly called probation) is part of the civil service examination process which allows an employer to evaluate a new hired or newly promoted employee to determine whether she can satisfactorily perform her new duties. During the working test period, newly hired or promoted civil service employees perform the regular duties of a permanent employee, but cannot take a promotional test from that title. The working test period is not training. Employees must already have the qualifications for the title prior to appointment. Employees must demonstrate competence in the position.
In general, all regular career service appointments are subject to a working test period although exceptions apply, generally where an employee has already demonstrated competence in the same or a similar position, such as eligibles hired from reemployment lists. Employees appointed to a comparable or lower related title in lieu of layoff are exempt. An employee will not need to complete a working test period when she is appointed to a position she previously held as a permanent appointee during her continuous permanent service. Certain lateral title changes are exempt.
A permanent employee will be considered to have resigned from her previous permanent position when she is appointed to a new title in a different organizational unit within the same governmental jurisdiction from an open competitive list – in other words, she will lose any permanent status which she may have had in her prior position. The new employer must inform the employee of loss of permanent status prior to her new appointment.
A working test period for State employees is generally four months, although this may be extended by the New Jersey Civil Service Commission to six months. Working test periods for local government employees are three months. Entry level law enforcement officers, correction officers and firefighters have twelve month working test periods.
The employer must give progress reports to the employee during the working test period. Employees must be furnished with a copy of the report.
End of the Working Test Period
Newly hired employees who do not successfully complete their working test period may be terminated. Promoted employees have the right to return to the lower, permanent titles. However, employees who are removed for cause during the working test period do not have the right to return to their prior positions.
An employee who resigns in good standing or is separated due to unsatisfactory performance may, upon request, be restored to an eligible list if the Commission determines that the employee is suitable. An employee who is laid off during the working test period shall be restored to the eligible list from which she was appointed. An employee must be given notice of termination or return to her former permanent position at the end of a working test period.
The employee may appeal her termination or return to her prior position to the New Jersey Civil Service Commission within 20 days. The notice must advise the employee of this right. Appeals must be made to the Commission in writing. The burden of proof is on the employee to prove that the action was taken in bad faith. If bad faith is found she will receive a new working test period, which may be shortened. Decisions of the New Jersey Civil Service Commission may be appealed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey within 45 days.
Our New Jersey employment attorneys represent private and public service employees in all aspects of New Jersey employment law, including civil service appeals. Call us at (973) 890-0004 or fill in the contact form on this page to schedule a consultation with one of our New Jersey civil service attorneys. We can help.