Court Rejects Changes for New Jersey Worker Promotions

TRENTON, N.J. (CN) – Vacating a proposed rule to stop competitive testing, a New Jersey appeals court handed the Legislature a win Thursday in its ongoing battle with the state executive branch over public employee promotions.

In an opinion that covered six consolidated appeals, the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division backed up the state Legislature’s veto of a proposed rule from Gov. Chris Christie’s executive branch that would allow promotions without the use of an exam.

State law mandates that new state employees and those up for promotions pass a competitive exam. To expedite promotions, the Civil Service Commission, or CSC, proposed a new regulation for certain administrative state positions, which would place the positions within “bands,” allowing employees to move to higher paying jobs within a fixed band without having to take a competitive promotion exam.

The change was intended to give more discretion to managers over which employees advanced, but opponents in the Legislature and the government workers’ union criticized the move as a means to subvert fair promotions.

Lawmakers pushed back on the proposed regulation, arguing that it conflicted with the state’s Civil Service Act, also called CSA, giving them grounds to veto the proposed rule.

“The proposed new rule is not consistent with the legislative intent that the public policy of this state is to select and advance employees on the basis of their relative knowledge, skills and abilities, ensure equal employment opportunity at all levels of public service, and protect career public employees from political coercion,” according to one of a series of resolutions of passed in response to the proposed regulation.

Despite lawmakers using their veto power over executive branch regulation to invalidate job banding, the CSC implemented the new rule in defiance of the Legislature.

In an attempt to ease concerns from legislators, the CSC amended its proposed regulation, continuing the practice of giving precedent to veterans and excluding first responders from the shift to job bands.

The amendments did little to assuage lawmakers because the rule still allowed for job banding.

On Thursday, the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division vacated implementation of the job-banding rule.

“The Legislature reasonably found that job banding without competitive promotional examinations was inconsistent with the legislative intent reflected in the plain language of the relevant provisions of the CSA,” Judge Douglas Fasciale wrote for a three-judge panel.

The appeals court found that lawmakers properly exercised their veto power.

“The Legislature correctly invalidated the proposed rule, and the amendments consistently ignored the Legislature’s steadfast substantive objection to job banding without competitive promotional examinations,” the ruling states.

A spokesperson from the CSC did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.