Appealing Removal from a Civil Service Promotion or Hiring List in New Jersey

Background: Merit Based Employment Decisions

New Jersey Civil Service hiring and promotion is based on the principle that all government employment decisions should be made based on merit.  Indeed, this principle is enshrined in the New Jersey Constitution of 1947, which provides that:

Appointments and promotions in the civil service of the State, and of such political subdivisions as may be provided by law, shall be made according to merit and fitness to be ascertained, as far as practicable, by examination, which, as far as practicable, shall be competitive; except that preference in appointments by reason of active service in any branch of the military or naval forces of the United States in time of war may be provided by law.

The New Jersey Civil Service System accomplishes this by ranking applicants by test score, veterans status, and other factors. 

However, in some cases an employer may request that an applicant’s name be removed from the resulting list of applicants who are eligible for hiring or promotion. (Applicants are known as “eligibles,” and choosing candidates for promotion or hiring is called “selection” in the New Jersey Civil Service Act and regulations.)

But because the whole point of the Civil Service System is to ensure that employment decisions are made based solely on the candidates’ merit and not because of political considerations, discrimination, nepotism, cronyism or outright bribery, New Jersey Civil Service law provides an appeal process for when an applicant believes that she has been wrongfully removed from a Civil Service eligible list.


Permissible Reasons for Removal from a Civil Service Hiring or Promotion List 

An applicant may be removed from a civil service eligible list because she: 

Lacks the job requirements;

  • Is ineligible;
  • Is physically or psychologically unfit for the position;
  • Fails the exam;
  • Provided materially false information;
  • Had previously been fired from government service because of discipline after opportunity for a hearing;
  • Has a prior negative employment history;
  • Failed to pay the application processing fee;
  • Is unavailable or is unable or refuses to accept appointment;
  • Failure to comply with instructions;
  • Has a prior criminal record which would adversely affect the position the applicant seeks;
  • When her mail is returned;
  • Is not in compliance with residency requirements; and
  • When the New Jersey Civil Service Commission determines that there are other valid reasons for removal.

Expungements may preclude removing an applicant from an eligible list, with the exception of law enforcement officer, firefighter or correction officer positions.  Dismissal through a conditional discharge or pre-trial intervention program may also mitigate removal absent a the arrest adversely impacts the applicant’s ability for the job or qualifications.

If the employer believes that there are valid grounds for removing the applicant from a hiring or eligible list, it will notify the New Jersey Civil Service Commission.  The Commission will examine the request.  If it find that the employer’s alleged grounds for the requested removal are sufficient, it the notifies both the applicant and the employer.  It must also advise the eligible of her right to appeal. 


How to Appeal Removal from a Civil Service Eligible List

Although applicants do not have a right to a job because they were placed on an eligible list, they do have the right to appeal removal from a list.  An applicant must file a written notice of appeal with the New Jersey Civil Service Commission within 20 days.

The employer has the burden of proving that valid grounds exist to remove the applicant from the hiring or promotional list.  Therefore, once an appeal has been filed the employer is required to submit evidentiary documentation to support the reason for its request.  The applicant then has the opportunity to submit her own evidence demonstrating that the reasons for removal were invalid and that she therefore should not have been removed from the list.

The documents submitted are extremely important.  If the Civil Service Commission decides that there are no questions of fact it may deny the appeal and sustain the removal without a hearing.  However, if it finds that the documents submitted do create a question of fact it will refer the appeal to the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law where an administrative law judge will hear testimony, review the documentary evidence and make a recommended decision.  The employer and applicant may submit arguments why the recommended decision is incorrect, after which the Civil Service Commission will review the recommended decision and the post-hearing submissions and make a final decision.

The final decision of the Civil Service Commission may be appealed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey within 45 days.  It may thereafter be appealed to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, which has the discretion to hear the appeal or not (the Supreme Court rejects majority of the appeals without a hearing on the merits).


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Our New Jersey employment attorneys represent government employees in all aspects of New Jersey employment law, including Civil Service appeals. Fill out the contact form on this page or call (973) 890-0004 to schedule a consultation with one of our New Jersey Civil Service lawyers.  We can help.




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