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June 29, 2010

Provisional employee has no right to continued employment as a provisional

Provisional employee has no right to continued employment as a provisional appointee
Singletarly v NYC Dept. of Homeless Services, Supreme Court IA PART 27, Justice Gammerman, [Not selected for publication in the Official Reports]

In the Singletarly case Judge Gammerman sets out the basic rules concerning the rights of a provisional employee to continued employment as a provisional employee. In a nutshell, the court held that provisional appointments cannot, “with one rare exception inapplicable here,* ripen into a permanent appointment” and provisional employees have no civil service status and acquire no vested rights by virtue of their temporary or provisional service.

Singletarly was serving as a permanent Fraud Investigator, a position in the noncompetitive class. The New York City Department of Homeless Service provisionally appointed him to a vacant Associate Fraud Investigator position, a competitive class position, effective February 20, 1998.

On June 8, 1998 the Department reinstated him to his permanent title, Fraud Investigator. Claiming that this change constituted a “demotion,” thus entitling him to notice and a hearing within the meaning of Section 75 of the Civil Service Law, Singletarly sued.

Justice Gammerman dismissed Singletarly petition, noting that as his “appointment was a provisional appointment from the non-competitive class” and as he never took or passed a civil service examination** for any position or title, nor was he on or selected from an eligibility list” ... Singletarly “has no entitlement to any position or to any particular title.”

Describing Singletarly’s status as a provisional employee as that of “an employee at will” Justice Gammerman concluded that Singletarly “could be terminated from any position without good cause.”***

The court also briefly analyzed the status of a provisional employee, commenting that when there is no appropriate eligibility list available for filling a [wholly] vacancy in the competitive class the position may be filled on a provisional basis.

A provisional employee, however, has no expectation of tenure rights, including the right to notice or hearing prior to termination, or being given the reason for his or her termination. Thus, said the court, “a provisional employee may be terminated at any time without charges proffered, a statement of reasons given or a hearing held.”

* The “rare exception” referred to by the Justice Gammerman is probably the one leading to the decision in Roulett v Town of Hempstead Civil Service Commission, 40 AD2d 611. In Roulett the court held that the continued provisional employment of a person eligible for permanent appointment to the position when the individual is qualified for permanent appointment from a nonmandatory eligible list results in that individual being deemed permanent in the position upon the completion of the period of probation otherwise required [Section 64.5, Civil Service Law].

** Section 52 of the Civil Service Law authorizes the State Department of Civil Service to allow noncompetitive and labor class employees in the service of the State to compete in promotion examinations when such examinations are held in conjunction with open competitive examinations for the same title.

*** This, however, may not be entirely accurate with respect to Singletarly insofar as termination from his noncompetitive class position is concerned if he (1) is a veteran who served in time of war or is an exempt volunteer firefighter or (2) satisfies the requirements set out in Section 75.1(c) of the Civil Service Law. Further, a collective bargaining agreement negotiated pursuant to the Taylor Law may give persons not otherwise protected by Section 75 certain pre-termination due process rights.

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The Discipline Book - A concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public officers and employees in New York State. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5215.html

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Text prepared by Harvey Randall except as otherwise noted. Randall, former Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service, also served as Director of Personnel for the State University System; as Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and as Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. He has an MPA from the Maxwell School, Syracuse University and a J.D. from Albany Law School.