29 year public servant facing termination over new NYC law !

My step-father is classified as a provisional employee for New York City. He has been working there for 29 YEARS ! A recent law states all provisional employees who do not become civil service within a 9 month period will be terminated. He is now at risk for losing everything. He was scheduled to retire in 4 years! There has to be some law to protect him. Is there anything he can do !!!???

1 answer  |  asked Mar 10, 2008 9:38 PM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

David M. Lira
The Civil Service

Once upon a time, every employee of government owed his or her job to the person who held the big job, that is, the mayor, governor, president or other head of office in office at the time. When that mayor, governor, etc. left office, none of those employees had any guarantee of continued employment, and, more often than not, especially when there was a change in party, they were out on the next election.

This gave the mayor, governor, etc., a lot of power, but the people selected as employees were political hacks and often incompetent, if not down-right dirty.

About 200 years ago, New York State came up with the idea of a professional civil service. (Yes, the idea, at least in the US, started here in New York.) The idea was to select government employees on the basis of merit rather than political or personal connections. Whenever possible, merit would be determined by a test. To protect these employees from the political winds, they were to hold office, after a probationary period, permanently unless a civil service employee did something so wrong that the conduct would serve as good cause for termination. (Gross incompetence is good cause.) The idea of a professional civil service was thought to be so important, that in New York it is actually incorporated in the State Constitution.

Now, a lot of the civil service rules are based on common sense. For example, somethings, a government department has a need to fill a position immediately. The position performs a function that cannot wait until the next civil service test. Persons filling these postions until the next test are provisional employees. The employees filling the position until the next test have ALWAYS meant to be temporary employees. The fact they are temporary appointments is nothing new in the law.

A person holding a provisional position can take the test to compete for the permanent appointment. However, a provisional employee has no formal advantage over any other person taking the test and competing for the same position. (Because of the top three rule, in which a position is filled from the the three candidates with the highest score in the test, a provisional might have an advantage if he or she is among the top three candidates then being considered.)

Provisional positions have always been used improperly to get around the restrictions of the civil service, which, again, require appointment on the basis of merit rather than political or personal connections. Nassau County use to have a very big problem with it. I have known provisionals who stayed on so long that they were able to retire as provisionals.

posted by David M. Lira  |  Mar 11, 2008 09:17 AM [EST]

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