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Articles Tagged with New Jersey civil service attorneys

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New Jersey employment law provides that government employees may be fired for conviction of a crime, and for many crimes they must be fired.  However, if they are exonerated they may be reinstated to their position.  They may be subject to further discipline, but if they are not they may also receive back pay, police-hoboken-train-stationseniority and benefits for the period of their suspension.

Suspension During Criminal Charges

New Jersey Civil Service Commission regulations provide that an employee’s conviction of a crime is grounds for discipline.  An employee suspended while a criminal complaint or indictment is pending must be served with a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action (known as a “PNDA”). The PNDA should include a statement that forfeiture of the employee’s position may result, and that the employee may choose to consult with an attorney.  In this case representation by an attorney is always advisable.  Within five days of receipt of the PNDA, the employee may request a departmental hearing. If no request is made (within five days or an agreed upon extension) the employer may issue a Final Notice of Disciplinary Action (an “FNDA”).

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In the tough economic times brought on by COVID-19, many governors and veterans-300x200mayors, including New Jersey’s Governor Murphy, have said that widespread layoffs may be necessary if federal assistance is not forthcoming.  Our attorneys represent New Jersey Civil Service employees, and we see the struggles they are facing.  Given this, we thought the time was right to review the layoff rights available under New Jersey Civil Service law.

 
Layoffs

A layoff is the termination of a permanent employee’s employment because of economic reasons.  Demotions or reduction of hours for economic reasons are also treated as layoffs, triggering the rights and procedures applicable to layoffs.

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A main goal of the New Jersey Civil Service Act is to ensure that employment decisions are based on merit and fitness, and therefore to prevent discrimination, political cronyism, corruption and nepotism from being a consideration.  Thus, the Legislature has given civil service office-workers-2-300x200employees the ability to appeal most employer imposed discipline to the New Jersey Civil Service Commission.

Right to Appeal Major Discipline to the New Jersey Civil Service Commission. 

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Qualified candidates for permanent, career, classified New Jersey Civil Service veterans-300x200employment who meet the Civil Service definition are eligible to receive a veterans and disabled veterans preference, which increases their ranks on eligible lists.  The courts have explained that the purpose of the preference is to “reward those whose military commitments, commissioned or enlisted, were of such a nature and duration as to interfere substantially with an individual’s civilian status.”

Veterans Eligible for Preference

Not all “veterans”, as the term is generally used, are eligible for a New Jersey Civil Service preference.  Only “veterans” and “disabled veterans” of certain military operations as defined by the New Jersey Civil Service Act are eligible.   Thus, veterans of some military operations, such as, for example, Operations Earnest Will, Nimble Archer and Praying Mantis, in the Persian Gulf Region in 1987 and 1988, are excluded.

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Collectively, New Jersey state and local governments are the largest employer in the State.  Most of these jurisdictions are governed by the New Jersey Civil Service Act.  In New Jersey Civil Service jurisdictions, hiring, firing, promotion and discipline is governed by the Civil Service Act and Regulations.  This makes the Civil Service System one of the most important elements in New Jersey employment law.

The Use of Eligible Lists in Hiring and Promotion

Candidates for initial hiring and promotion in the permanent, career, unclassified civil service are selected and appointed based on their civil-service-jobs-300x200placement on eligible lists (also referred to as “certifications”).  There are five types of eligible lists: Open competitive lists, promotional lists, regular reemployment lists, police and fire reemployment lists, and special reemployment lists.

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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.

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Because the purpose of the New Jersey Civil Service System is to remove politics, nepotism and favoritism from the hiring and disciplinarydisciplinary-1326277__340-300x300 processes to ensure that employment decisions are based on merit and fitness, just cause must be found for imposing discipline.  And because the employer is the government, all discipline, New Jersey’s Court’s have explained, “is governed by principles of notice, due process and fundamental fairness.” The key to this is notice and the opportunity to be heard at a hearing.

Written Notice and the Opportunity for a Hearing Before Appointing Authority

Before disciplinary action may be taken against a permanent civil service employee or during an employee’s working test period, the employee must get written notice and the opportunity for a hearing on major discipline.  This notice comes in the form of a “Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action” (“PNDA”).  The PNDA must set forth the charges and give a specification.  It must give the employee the opportunity for a hearing prior to major discipline. The PDNA should give the employee notice of all the charges and specifications against him so he can prepare a defense.

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Criminal charges against public employees can have serious consequences under New Jersey civil service law.  In this post, we’ll examine gavel-300x200some of those consequences.

Suspensions of New Jersey Civil Service Employees While Criminal Charges Are Pending

First, if a New Jersey civil service employee is facing criminal charges, she can be suspended while the charges are pending.  The employee must be served with a preliminary notice of disciplinary action (PNDA). The PNDA must advise her that she may be subject to being fired if the charges are upheld, and that she has the right to consult with an attorney.  The employee may request a hearing about the suspension. If no request is made within five days the appointing authority may issue a final notice of disciplinary action (FNDA). If the employee is charged with a third degree crime or higher, if she is charged with a crime of the fourth degree on the job, or if the charges are “directly related to the job,” the employee may be suspended indefinitely until the charges are resolved.

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New Jersey Civil Service law establishes procedures for hiring and promoting government employees in New Jersey state and local statehousejpg-daf3a85399187d6b-300x200government civil service jurisdictions.

Appointments

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.

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How a New Jersey public employment position is classified can have enormous effects on an employee’s rights.  This blog describes some of the details about how the New Jersey Civil Service Commission classifies New Jersey Civil Service jobs, and what the consequences of thoseNJ_State_House-300x200 classifications are.

 
Some terms

Under New Jersey Civil Service Law, jobs are classified by “titles.”  Titles are based on duties, responsibilities, and qualifications.  “Career service” employees serve in “classified” titles, “unclassified employees” serve in “unclassified” titles.

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