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January 8, 2011

Report of the Workforce Reform Task Force created by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Report of the Workforce Reform Task Force created by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg

The Workforce Reform Task Force created by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued its Report and Recommendations on January 6, 2011.*

Mayor Bloomberg established the Task Force in an effort to address that the Task Force characterizes as a system that has been "codified by a needlessly complex and restrictive set of rules and restrictions." Its mission: to study and develop recommendations "that will give the City the flexibility to empower and manage its workforce while strengthening its talent, skills and diversity."

Clearly many of the problems and the Task Force’s suggested solutions require careful consideration and analysis. NYPPL believes that solutions can be developed that would be consistent with the mandates of the State Constitution. Such solutions, of course, may require amendments to the Civil Service Law as well as modifications of existing procedures and processes. NYPPL believes that with study and imagination, many, if not all, of the difficulties identified by the Task Force will yield to the benefit of the City, its citizens and its employees.

Below are NYPPL’s reactions** to the first 10 of the Task Force's 23 recommendations:

Recommendation 1: Amend State Law to eliminate the State Civil Service Commission’s oversight authority over the City

NYPPL Comments: Many of the “problems” recited in this portion of the Report may well result from that often fatal administrative disease, “hardening of the categories.” Innovation, consistent with the mandates of Article V, Section 6 regarding selection by merit and fitness, rather than the destruction of a system that, when used with imagination, is flexible and responsive, appears to be the better alternative.


Recommendation 2: Empower the New York City Transit Authority and the Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority to administer their civil service systems

NYPPL Comments: Certainly doable.


Recommendation 3: Move certain titles out of the competitive class, including all senior management and executive titles

NYPPL Comments: Two court rulings that address many of the issues underlying this portion of the Report are:

[1] Brynien v NYS Department of Civil Service [Civil Service Commission’s jurisdictional reclassification of 29 titles to the noncompetitive class violated Article V, §6’s merit and fitness mandate] NYPPL's summary of the Brynien decision is posted on the Internet at: http://publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/2010/12/employees-alleging-that-they-were.html

and

[2] City of Long Beach v Civil Service Employees Association, Inc. [Contract provisions agreed upon in the course of collective negotiations pursuant to the Taylor Law cannot not override a statutory mandate.] NYPPL's summary of the City of Long Beach decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/2010/10/contract-provisions-agreed-upon-in.html


Recommendation 4: Broadband and consolidate existing titles

NYPPL Comments: The Civil Service Law currently recognizes the concept of Broadbanding Titles [See CSL §52.6 as an example of such a device.] Similarly, “consolidation of titles” might be appropriate under certain circumstances but essentially this appears to be a “position classification” and “allocation to a salary grade” issue.


Recommendation 5: Increase the use of education and experience exams for competitive titles

NYPPL Comments: The rating of Training and Experience [T&E] is not a new concept. It has been used successfully in many instances. Again, however, where a competitive class position is involved, the T&E examination must likewise be competitive.


Recommendation 6: Adopt band-scoring methodology where possible

NYPPL Comments:
This Recommendation appears to advocate the broader use of “Zone Scoring” examination results.


Recommendation 7: Give credit for high performing provisional service on exams

NYPPL Comments: This is a troublesome recommendation as it is, in NYPPL's opinion, inconsistent with basic merit and fitness concepts as it advantages the individual selected for the provisional employment over one not so favored although the latter might be the better candidate. As an example of a prohibition barring so favoring provisional appointees, §52.10 of the Civil Service Law, provides

10. Credit for provisional service. No credit in a promotion examination shall be granted to any person for any time served as a provisional appointee in the position to which promotion is sought or in any similar position, provided, however, such provisional appointee by reason of such provisional appointment shall receive credit in his permanent position from which promotion is sought for such time served in such provisional appointment.


Recommendation 8: Increase the appropriate use of selective certification in hiring

NYPPL Comments: This recommendation, when used in specific and appropriate situations, is doable. The idea underlying the recommendation is well recognized as demonstrated by the use of a parenthetic title such as “Secretary {Spanish Speaking)" and similar “parenthetic titles” in State and municipal service.


Recommendation 9: Eliminate Test Validation Boards and reform the process for challenging competitive civil service exams

NYPPL Comments: At the risk of oversimplification, the genesis of “test validation boards” was to provide the professional support necessary to demonstrate the test was “valid” in the context of rebuffing challenges alleging that the examination unlawfully discriminated against a “protected class” by not being job related, etc.


Recommendation 10: Streamline processes to enable employees to move across functions and use Rule 6.1.9 more effectively to transfer titles and employees between agencies

NYPPL Comments: Suffice it to note that the Task Force Report states that “the flexibility provided by [Rule 6.1.9] appears to be underutilized by agency managers.”
__________________

* The Report is posted on the Internet at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/46469466/Bloomberg-Workforce-Report

** Prepared by Harvey Randall, Editor and General Counsel, Public Employment Law Press.

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