Democrats Try To Stop Civil Service Rule Change

TRENTON – An Assembly panel today advanced a measure to prohibit adoption of the Civil Service Commission’s proposed job banding program because it violates the legislative intent established in New Jersey’s constitution.

The measure, sponsored by six Assembly Democrats, is the second advanced by the Legislature on the issue. In June, it approved legislation finding the proposed rule is not consistent with legislative intent, but the commission still hasn’t withdrawn or revised its proposal.

The new resolution (ACR-215) prohibits, in whole, the rule from being adopted and taking effect. And if, at the time of passage of this concurrent resolution, the Civil Service Commission has adopted the rules, this bill invalidates them, in whole.

“In order to best serve the public, government requires competent professional employees who are hired through a fair process,” said Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “Civil service is in place to constitutionally guarantee public access to publicly funded jobs. We must have safeguards in place to ensure that elected or appointed officials do not turn public employment into their own personal hiring agency.”

The sponsors noted that the civil service system in New Jersey, once a statutory creation, gained permanence through its inclusion in the New Jersey Constitution, which provides that appointments and promotions in the civil service system must be made according to merit and fitness, to be ascertained, as far as practicable, by competitive examination.

But on March 18, the state Civil Service Commission published proposed rule changes to establish a new job banding program for positions in both state and local service. The proposed job banding program gives substantial discretion to civil service employers, potentially imperiling or curtailing veterans’ preference and advancement opportunities for women, minorities, those with disabilities and those vulnerable to discriminatory practices.

The sponsors say that the proposed changes are not consistent with legislative intent because they violate a number of constitutional edicts, including:

  • that employees be selected and advanced on the basis of their relative knowledge, skills and abilities;
  • that equal employment opportunities are ensured at all levels of public service to protect career public employees from political coercion; 
  • that a competitive promotional examination process be established; and
  • that veterans ranking highest on a promotional certification receive preference.

Under the proposed rule change, the appeal process would also be unavailable to employees who have not been selected for an advancement appointment under the proposed job banding program. Instead, a less protective grievance appeal procedure would be used.

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