The Sanders Firm, P.C.: New York Civil Service Lawyer

In the New York City area, The Sanders Firm, P.C. represents those who have complaints either in applying for a civil service job or for those who are or have been employed and feel that their civil service rights have been violated.

New York Civil Service Law is largely governed by two principles – the State Constitution’s “merit and fitness” requirements and a civil servant’s “property interest” in his/her continued employment. Operating on these two principles, civil service job offers and promotions must be based upon “merit” and permanent civil service employment may not be terminated without a hearing.

History Overview

In 1777 during the Revolutionary War, George Clinton became New York’s first governor. In 1871, the civil service system was established in the United States. Federal Civil Service includes “all appointive positions in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the Government of the United States, except positions in the uniformed services.” (5 U.S.C. § 2101). In 1829, President Andrew Jackson announced a policy that he termed “rotation in office,” which in effect meant that those in civil service would lose their jobs when a new president was elected as they would be replaced by those selected by the newly elected official. This became known as the “spoils system” and it was used on federal, state, and local levels of government.

Although the spoils system would remain in effect for decades to come reform came, albeit slowly. Throughout the 19th century, a federal civil service employee could be fired at any time. The states, including New York, mirrored this same system. George Plunkitt, a local leader of New York City’s Democratic Party, defended the spoils system. “You can’t keep an organization together without patronage,” he declared. “Men ain’t in politics for nothin’. They want to get somethin’ out of it.”

The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 first addressed the subject and by 1909, approximately two-thirds of the federal work force was appointed based on merit. In 1884, New York became the first state to adopt a merit-based civil service system for state workers. In 1894, New York inserted the “merit and fitness” requirement into the State Constitution.

Merit was determined by measuring each person’s qualifications and ability through tests. The Hatch Act of 1939 was very important in separating political parties from civil service. Under this Act civil servants were prohibited from engaging in political activities while performing their duties. There are still certain positions that are appointed by the president and governors, such as cabinet positions, but for the most part on the federal level and in each State; a system exists for hiring civil service employees based on merit.

Merit and Fitness Overview

The Sanders Firm, P.C. handles various types of civil service cases. Part of our practice focuses on the “merit and fitness” requirement in civil service, which generally applies to hiring decisions and promotions, and which shall be ascertained by such examinations as may be prescribed by the state civil service department or the municipal commission having jurisdiction (§50 of the New York State Civil Service Law). Utilizing what is known as the “one in three” rule, a public employer may select only one of three persons certified by the appropriate civil service commission as standing highest on such eligible list who are willing to accept such appointment or promotion (§61 of the New York State Civil Service Law).

If a certified person is not selected for appointment or promotion due to discriminatory animus, in accordance with Andriola v. Ortiz, 82 N.Y.2d 320 (1993) courts will only direct the public employer to reconsider the certified person’s eligibility. As established in Matter of the City of New York, et al. v. New York State Division of Human Rights, et al., 93 N.Y.2d 768 (1999), courts may only fashion such a remedy if the civil service eligible list has not expired.

Your Rights

We at New York City’s The Sanders Firm P.C. believe that those in civil service must understand that there are two types of civil service employees- permanent and probationary or provisional. Permanent employees have different rights than those who are probationary or provisional.

Permanent civil servants have “property interests” in their employment. Thus, a permanent civil servant shall not be removed or otherwise subjected to any disciplinary penalty except for incompetency or misconduct shown after a hearing upon stated charges pursuant to §75 of the New York State Civil Service Law. Probationary or provisional civil servants do not have “property interests” in their employment and thus can be removed, disciplined or otherwise discharged without a hearing or cause shown.

Call Us

Please read the various webpages focusing on civil service law provided by The Sanders Firm, P.C. in order to become acquainted with your rights, ways in which they may be violated, and actions you may take to protect yourself.

If you feel that you have had your civil service rights violated, or would like to have an attorney review your documents to ensure that your rights are protected, contact The Sanders Firm, P.C. We are your voice for justice.