New Jersey Civil Service law establishes procedures for hiring and promoting government employees in New Jersey state and local government civil service jurisdictions.
In Civil Service, “appointment” means getting a job, whether through initial hiring, promotion, transfer or otherwise. All initial and subsequent appointments must be submitted for review and approval of the New Jersey Civil Service Commission. The Commission will notify the employer of whether it has approved or disapproved the action, and the reasons for any disapproval. The employer then provides written notice to the affected employees.
Career Service Appointments
Passing an examination is normally required for all regular, permanent appointments and promotions to classified titles in the competitive division of the career service, followed by successful completion of a working test period.
In the noncompetitive division of the career service, the New Jersey Civil Service Commission may authorize an employer to make a regular appointment of a qualified person without an examination. The New Jersey Civil Service Commission may also authorize the promotion of permanent employees in the non-competitive division to titles in the competitive division through examination when they have met the open competitive requirements.
An unclassified appointment may be made to any title or position allocated to the unclassified service by statute or the New Jersey Civil Service Commission. Employees with unclassified appointments do not have the job security rights enjoyed by permanent appointees.
Conditional Regular Appointments
A “conditional regular appointment” in the competitive division of the career service in New Jersey Civil Service occurs when disputes or appeals concerning higher ranking eligibles may affect the legitimacy of an employee’s appointment. The employer is required to advise the conditional appointee of her status and rights, including any change in appointment status. If an eligible employee’s dispute is successful, the conditional regular appointment ends. If the final determination causes no change in the selection process – ie., the challenge is denied or the conditional appointment otherwise upheld – the employee’s conditional appointment is changed to a regular appointment. The original date of appointment is retained. While the dispute is ongoing, and thus the conditional appointment, the conditional appointee’s name remains on the eligible list for consideration for other employment.
When a complete list of eligible employees is not available, provisional appointments may be in the competitive division of the career service. The New Jersey Civil Service Act provides:
Provisional appointments shall be made only in the competitive division of the career service and only in the absence of a complete certification, if the employer certifies that in each individual case the appointee meets the minimum qualifications for the title at the time of appointment and that failure to make a provisional appointment will seriously impair the work of the employer. In no case shall any provisional appointment exceed a period of 12 months.
The Regulations promulgated by the New Jersey Civil Service Commission further clarify that when these requirements are met, a provisional appointment may be made either when there is no list at all, or when there is an incomplete list “ and no one remaining on the incomplete list will accept provisional appointment. Provisional appointments cannot exceed 12 months.
A provisionally appointed employee must take an examination when it is announced for her title, or she will be terminated from the provisional title. An employee is serving in a provisional position for a long period of time, in good faith because of a mistake by her superiors, does not become a permanent employee without having passed the examination and completed the working test period; estoppel cannot be invoked to make the appointment permanent. However, if the employer fails to do so, through no fault of the employee, and the employee is prejudiced thereby – in other words, where a long-term employee performing well has been denied permanent status by the neglect or malfeasance of the employer – the New Jersey Civil Service Commission has the power to remedy the situation, including giving the employee the opportunity to seek permanent status through the examination procedure without being discharged in the interim.
Essentially, provisional appointees are “at will” employees during their provisional appointment. As essentially “at will” employees, provisional employees have no right to a hearing or to appeal termination. The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey explained that: “A provisional appointee does not enjoy the job protection accorded to a permanent employee. Ordinarily, permanent employees can be discharged or demoted only for cause, and they have pre-termination appeal and hearing rights; however, provisional employees can be terminated at any time at the discretion of the employer.” However, the “at will” provisional employee does enjoy those civil rights which are inherent in the constraints imposed on public employers by virtue of the fact that they are government actors and by laws of general applicability, such as those preventing discrimination, harassment, or whistleblower retailiation.
Under certain circumstances, employers may make “interim appointments” to fill non-permanent vacancies to specific titles. Interim appointees must possess the minimum qualifications for the title. If a complete eligible list should exist for the title, the interim appointment must be made from that list. Interim appointment will not affect the appointee’s eligibility for other appointment; the interim appointee’s name remains on the eligible list for consideration for permanent employment.
The regulations of the New Jersey Civil Service Commission allow employers may make interim appointments to fill a vacancy in a specific position or title when the permanent employee:
- Is on a leave of absence;
- Is on indefinite suspension;
- Has been removed or demoted for disciplinary reasons and is awaiting final administrative action by the Merit System Board on appeal; or
- Has accepted an interim appointment.
In these situations, whether or not the position is filled, it will be held and reserved for the return of the absent employee.
Interim appointments can also be made when a position will be abolished due to a closing or phasedown of a government operation. Employers must give notice to the New Jersey Civil Service Commission. If the closing or phasedown is rescinded after an interim appointment has been made from an eligible list, the interim appointee will be permanently appointed subject to satisfactory completion of a working test period, regardless of whether the eligible list has already expired.
Interim appointments may also be made to vacant positions or titles in a government operation not scheduled for a closing or phasedown where:
- An employee of a government operation scheduled for a closing or phasedown has accepted a reassignment to that government operation;
- Due to operational requirements, the employee is needed by the governmental operation scheduled for the closing or phasedown while it continues to operate;
- The government operation not scheduled for a closing or phasedown needs to fill the vacant position/title to which the employee would have been reassigned; and
An interim appointment will last only as long as the absence of the employee permanently appointed to the position, at which time the returning employee will return to the position. When an interim appointment ends, the interim appointee will be returned to her permanent title.
Interim appointees continue to accrue seniority in their permanent title, and their layoff rights are determined by their permanent title.
Employees may receive temporary appointments for not more than six months in a twelve month period. Temporary appointments may extend to twelve months under a short-term grant. Consecutive temporary appointments in excess of these periods are prohibited. Temporary appointees must meet the minimum qualifications for the job. Once an eligible list for a position is promulgated, the employer must replace temporary appointees with eligibles from the list.
Temporary appointees are essentially “at will.” As such, the employee may be let go for any non-prohibited reason without a hearing.
“The [New Jersey Civil Service Commission] may authorize an emergency appointment for a period not to exceed 30 days when the employer certifies that the failure to make such appointment will result in harm to persons or property.”
Return of Employees to Their Permanent Titles
An employee with permanent status in a career service title has rights “to a position in the permanent title in the same organizational unit”, when she is returned during or at the end of the working test period in another title, or from the following types of appointment, provided that the employee held the permanent title within current continuous service: Conditional regular appointments; provisional appointments; interim appointments; temporary appointments; emergency appointments; and unclassified appointments. If an employee was wrongfully terminated, he may be reinstated to his prior position. If an employer cannot effect the return of a permanent employee under the specified procedures, it must utilize layoff procedures.
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