For a brief breakdown of Civil Service in New York State, please watch the below video.
January 2018 (View as PDF)
The New York State Department of Civil Service administers Civil Service Law for state departments and agencies including the New York State Library. For institutions other than state service, the Civil Service Law is locally administered, by the county, city, school district or town. Each municipal civil service agency administers the law for the civil divisions under its jurisdiction, including public libraries, schools, villages, water districts etc.
There can be many variations between the local rules of civil service agencies. Some important variations include the existence of or duration of residency in the jurisdiction prior to taking an exam, continuous recruitment of titles and canvass procedures. Always check with the local civil service agency to determine local rules that may affect your candidacy for a position.
Be mindful that your career is involved when dealing with civil service. Filling out forms completely, filing for examinations on time and making sure that you have done what is required to meet the qualifications is your responsibility.
Many of the terms used in this document are defined in the Glossary of Civil Service Terms, available from NYLA.
CIVIL SERVICE CLASSIFICATION
The competitive class is the core of civil service; positions are filled in accordance with the principles of merit and fitness through competitive examination. Librarian I and Library Clerk are examples of competitive titles. It is the class of civil service jobs which provides due process in removal and other disciplinary actions for permanently appointed job holders under Civil Service Law, Section 75.
Most full-time and some part-time positions in public libraries are in the competitive class. To secure a permanent appointment to a competitive position, an applicant must:
The non-competitive class consists of jobs which have minimum qualifications but for which competitive examination is determined to be not practicable. Carpenters and Display Artists are examples of non-competitive class jobs. There are no lists of candidates for non-competitive jobs.
After five years of continuous permanent service, non-competitive employees may acquire protection under Section 75 unless the position has been designated “confidential/policy-influencing” in the appendices of the local civil service agencies’ rules. In addition, some part-time jobs may be placed in the non-competitive class. Refer to the appendices of your local agency for information on which positions are non-competitive.
In a small number of jurisdictions, the Library Director position is in the non-competitive class.
The labor class consists of jobs which involve unskilled labor. Cleaner and Page are two examples of titles in this class. There are no lists of candidates for labor class jobs.
The exempt class generally consists of those jobs in which the incumbent serves at the pleasure of his/her appointing authority. Exempt class jobs have no tenure protection associated with them. Civil Service Law, Section 41 defines the specific kinds of jobs which may be placed in this class. Clerk to the Board and Library Treasurer are two examples of titles in this class. There are no lists of candidates for exempt class jobs.
NON-COMPETITIVE CLASS/ PART-TIME PROFESSIONAL POSITIONS
If a part-time position is in the non-competitive class, an applicant who meets the minimum qualifications for the position may be appointed without competitive examination. Rules governing the limits on part-time appointments are determined by each local civil service agency. These rules vary so the rules of the applicable jurisdiction should be consulted for details.
EXAMINATIONS: OPEN-COMPETITIVE & PROMOTIONAL
Examinations are sometimes offered both open-competitively and promotionally. In such cases, the promotional list for a library must be used first to fill vacancies. If the promotional list contains the names of fewer than three persons willing to accept appointment, an open-competitive list may be used to make an appointment.
If there is no promotional list for a library, the library must use the open-competitive list if there are three or more persons on the list willing to accept appointment. For this reason, when an examination is offered both open-competitively and promotionally, applicants may find it advantageous to file for both examinations, provided that they meet both sets of minimum qualifications. Such individuals effectively take only one test, but must file applications for both examinations and pay separate application fees, if required by the jurisdiction.
All civil service examinations are announced in an official announcement. Candidates must consult examination announcements to determine the subject of examination to be given and the type of test to be used.
An examination consisting of an evaluation of Training and Experience (T&E) is most often used for professional librarian titles. This technique consists of a systematic evaluation of the education and work experience of each applicant against a pre-determined scale, which is developed based on the duties and critical knowledge, skills and abilities of the position to be filled. Each civil service agency may set their own pre-determined scale upon which to evaluation candidates. It is not uniform statewide. When competing in a T&E examination, provide detailed information, including a clear description of all previous jobs and the inclusive dates of each job. Vagueness on an application or questionnaire for a T&E evaluation may result in some element of an applicant's background being rated lower than it would if it were described in detail or may be awarded no credit.
Clerical titles are most often subject to written examinations. These exams consist of short-answer or multiple choice questions that are designed to evaluate the practical skills and knowledge necessary for the position.
Be certain to read and follow the instructions on the published announcements for the test you plan to take. Unless an examination is held on a continuous recruitment basis, filing dates are governed by the announced deadline for filing. Examinations for Librarian I and II are most often announced as needed by municipal civil service agencies. Inquiry should be made to determine where, besides the local civil service office, announcements will be made available. Most jurisdictions will not accept applications filed before the examination announcement is issued. If a jurisdiction does accept pre-filing, your application would be kept on file until the announcement is issued for that title. You would then be notified of any additional requirements you must fulfill, such as updating your application or completing a questionnaire, or paying an application fee. Be sure to notify the civil service agency if your address changes while you have an application on file for any examination.
Civil service may canvass a list before a certification of eligible list is issued to determine interest in a vacancy. However, in many jurisdictions, the library will be responsible for the canvass of the list.
According to the Civil Service Law, an appointing authority seeking to make an open-competitive appointment may give preference in appointment to legal residents of the jurisdiction. If the list contains fewer than three legal residents, the full eligible list must be used.
A promotional list containing the names of at least three individuals willing to accept the appointment must be used before an appointment can be made from an open-competitive list.
If you receive a canvass letter, it is important that you respond in a timely manner or you will be removed from the list. A candidate may decline a position for the reasons listed on the canvass letter or other reasons acceptable to the civil service agency without penalty. Detailed rules on declinations and their effect on eligibility for future appointment are contained in each municipal civil service agency's rules. There are variations so it is important that you are knowledgeable about the applicable rules.
RULE OF THREE
TYPES OF APPOINTMENTS
Temporary appointments never mature into permanent appointments and time served as a temporary appointee does not count toward meeting the minimum qualifications for competing in a promotional examination. For these reasons, the names of the candidates who accept temporary appointments remain on the eligible list, so they may be considered for any permanent appointments that develop while they are temporarily employed. For titles using “on-going” examinations, it is important for temporary appointees to reapply for examination in a timely manner as necessary to ensure their name remains on the list. Consult New York State Civil Service Law, Section 64 for further information on this topic.
Contingent permanent appointments may be subject to the same probationary period specified for permanent appointments. If a probationary period is completed, the contingent permanent appointee may be removed from the position only by the return of the encumbering employee, a layoff, or through a disciplinary (Section 75) proceeding. The name of an employee who accepts a contingent appointment may remain on the eligible list so he/she may be considered for other permanent positions. For titles using “on-going” examinations, it is important for contingent appointees to reapply for examination in a timely manner as necessary to ensure their name remains on the list. When a position filled by a contingent permanent appointment becomes unencumbered, the contingent appointee may immediately gain permanent competitive class status in the class if the required probationary period has been satisfactorily completed.
Provisional Appointment - Open-Competitive or Promotional
TRANSFERS & REASSIGNMENTS
Transfers are not “automatic” in any sense. You cannot transfer into a higher level position i.e. Librarian I to Librarian II, and no appointing authority is obliged to accept employees from another appointing authority.
A transfer cannot take place when a preferred list exists. A promotional list with the names of three or more eligibles will also preclude a transfer. Consult the New York State Civil Service Law, Section 70.1 and applicable local civil service rules for more detailed information on transfers.
Moves between similar positions in the same title under the same library are reassignments. The power to reassign is vested solely in the library. Collective bargaining agreements may have provisions related to an employee’s and management reassignment rights.
Employees who have been permanently appointed in a non-competitive class position and have at least five years of continuous service may be protected under Section 75 unless they are serving in non- competitive positions which the civil service agency has designated as "confidential" or those that "require the performance of functions influencing policy," pursuant to Section 42(2-a).
Sections 72 and 73 deal with an employee's rights to medical examinations, hearings, and reinstatement when the employee has been or may be placed on involuntary leave of absence or separated due to mental or physical inability to perform his/her duties. This is a complex subject; it is recommended that Sections 72, 73, and 75 of the Civil Service Law be read and the civil service agency be contacted for additional information.
Retention rights are comprised of two essential components: status and seniority. Status refers to whether the employee is permanent and has completed the required probationary period; permanent but serving a probationary period at the time of layoff; contingent permanent (if provided for by local civil service rules); provisional or temporary. Seniority is the date of the employee's original permanent appointment in the classified service of the government jurisdiction in which the abolition of the position occurs with continuous service since that date.
Under certain circumstances, credit for prior service with other government employers may be allowed by local civil service rules. The statutory definition of continuous service allows for specified types of brief breaks without loss of continuity. The seniority date is adjusted, however, for war veterans (who get 30 months additional seniority) and disabled war veterans and the spouses of disabled war veterans with 100% service connected disability (who get 60 months additional seniority).
An employee laid off from a position to which there is a direct line of promotion has the option to displace the least senior incumbent of the next lower level occupied position provided that the laid off employee has greater retention rights. This process is known as bumping. A direct line of promotion is defined as those titles with a common root, i.e. Librarian I, Librarian II. An employee who elects not to bump is laid off and his/her name entered on an appropriate preferred list.
There are other sections of Civil Service Law which provide special considerations for blind employees, war veterans, spouses of disabled war veterans and exempt volunteer firefighters. Union contracts may contain certain provisions that apply to the layoff of non-competitive employees in public libraries.
The layoff process, including employee retention rights is complex. Should there be a reduction in workforce, the local civil service agency will work closely with the library to administer the layoff process. Questions about the process, an individual employee's status and reemployment rights should be directed to the civil service agency with jurisdiction.
NYLA Personnel Administration Committee, December 1996
NYLA Civil Service Task Force, November 2016