December 1997 Legal Update

LEGAL UPDATE
By: Louis D. Stober, Jr., Esq.
CSEA REGIONAL ATTORNEY

STOBER DEFEATS CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION DISQUALIFICATIONS

In two cases of interest to anyone who may want to take a civil service exam in the future, the Appellate Division has set forth guidelines outlining when the Civil Service Commission can disqualify individuals from civil service exams. In the first case, Labella et al v. Nassau County Civil Service Commission, 170 A.D.2d 509, 566 N.Y.S.2d 77, I was able to establish that the Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying approximately 40 employees from taking a particular examination. In this particular case, the Commission had allowed persons holding the petitioners' title to take the promotional exam in the past. Then, without explanation, the Commission decided that experience in the lower title did not qualify for taking the examination. The Court held:

"[A] decision of an administrative agency which neither adheres to its own prior precedent nor indicates its reasons for reaching a different result on essentially the same facts is arbitrary and capricious… Here, the record indicates, and the Commission concedes, that the policy of the Commission for over a decade, was to consider Recreation Aide experience as satisfying the minimum qualifications for the Recreation Leader examinations. The Commission has neither adhered to its own precedent nor indicated its reason for reaching a different result. Although it now acknowledges its departure from precedent and describes the precedent as 'error [s] in judgment by a Personnel Specialist', the Commission has failed to indicate any rationale for the change."

The Court thus allowed all the Petitioners to take the exam and those who passed were placed on the eligible list.

In the second case, two employees were disqualified from taking a promotional exam allegedly because their prior experience did not meet the minimum qualifications for the test. I showed, through affidavits from the employees and their supervisor, that the employees did indeed perform the duties outlined in the test announcement. The Appellate Division again held in favor of the employees based on the uncontradicted fact that they were performing in-title duties that met the minimum qualifications in the test announcement.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are disqualified from an exam and you can prove either that you were allowed to take that test in the past or, through affidavits from supervisors, that you meet the minimum qualifications of in title experience, then you can challenge the disqualification. Remember, there is a very short statute of limitations and you must contact your union representative immediately.