Wednesday, March 21, 2018

THE INS AND OUTS OF PENNSYLVANIA STATE EMPLOYEES’ RIGHTS UNDER PENNSYLVANIA’S CIVIL SERVICE ACT



Are You an Employee of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Who Wants to Appeal a Personnel Action?

Justice for One and All
Certain classes of persons employed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including its departments and agencies, are entitled to protection from unwarranted discipline, most notably suspensions and terminations, as well as from illegal discrimination. Hence, they have rights far greater than do the ordinary at will employee.


You Have Many Rights if you are Employed by the Commonwealth -
You Just Need to Know When and How to Enforce Them!
However, the rules relating to how to protect one’s rights, as set forth in the Pennsylvania Civil Service Act, are strictly construed and must be adhered to closely.

How Many Days Do I Have to Appeal a Personnel Decision Under Pennsylvania’s Civil Service Law?


20-Day Deadline 
NOTE: This post deals only with regular full-time employees qualify for protection under the Act.

The first thing to know is that if you feel you have been subjected to unwarranted discipline or termination, or acts of discrimination, you must file an appeal within twenty (20) days from any notice of personnel action or from the date you believe the relevant act of discrimination occurred.  Employees who do not file an appeal within 20 days of notice of the personnel action or of the acts of discrimination that they believe exist will be deemed to have waived their rights under the Act.

What Should I Say in My Appeal Under Pennsylvania’s Civil Service Act?

Filing a Timely and Concise Appeal Essential
Filing an appropriate appeal is an extremely difficult task for the ordinary civil service employee. That is because employees often get distracted by things such as personality conflicts or how other people were not treated the same way, and lose sight of what is actually critical to an appeal. The first way to defeat a personnel action is to prove that the alleged conduct for which the employee has been discipline did not occur. By and large, and for simplicity’s sake, that should be the focus of your appeal. Leave all of the emotional baggage at the door and do not include that in your appeal.

Can I Include Documents Along With My Appeal To The Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission?

Yes, when you file an appeal, you can file documents to be submitted along with the appeal. Of course, far more often than not, the employee does not possess the documents that he or she needs to support their appeal. One may request that the Civil Service Commission issue a subpoena upon 1/3 party to obtain documents that may support the appeal.

Filing an concise appeal in a timely fashion is critical; any issues that are not raised in the appeal will be deemed waived and will not be considered down the road. Any appeal should be accompanied by a request for a hearing before the Civil Service Commission.


The Commission Has a Precise Way of Dealing With Appeals
What Happens After A I File a Pennsylvania Civil Service Employee Appeal With the Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission?

The three-member Civil Service Commission meets once each month to review all new appeals. Sometimes, they will decide the appeal based solely upon the appeal itself and any supporting documentation. Generally speaking, this is not a good thing for employee in serious situations involving termination, prolonged suspension or acts of discrimination. In any event, if the Commission should decide the appeal based merely upon the pay appeal papers filed, you will receive a written decision within a week of the conclusion of the Commission’s meeting.

CLICK HERE to read Why it is a good idea to hire counsel for an employee's hearing before the Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission

What Happens at a Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission Hearing?

If the Commissioners believe that the appeal warrants a formal hearing, you will receive notice in the mail as to the date and time of same. Such hearings are held in a relatively formal atmosphere presided over by one or more of the Commissioners or a Hearing Officer.

Unless the hearing is based solely upon allegations of discrimination, the Commonwealth will have the burden of going first at the hearing and presenting testimony and evidence sufficient to support the personnel action. During this time, you must be proactive in making sure to raise proper objections in a timely fashion.

The Commonwealth will always be represented by an attorney at such a hearing. Typically, the Commonwealth’s attorney will have spent many hours preparing numerous witnesses to present testimony and documentary evidence in support of the Commonwealth’s case before the hearing starts.

Having participated in hundreds of administrative hearings, I can tell you that the number one mistake that employees make is passively allowing the employer to introduce whatever evidence it wants in whatever form it wants. Typically, employees do not understand the rules of evidence and, without question, the administrative hearing process can be very intimidating for someone that does not ordinarily engage in legal proceedings.

If you go in there without an attorney, and are just hearing the testimony and evidence for the first time at the hearing, the likelihood of you being able to take advantage of the rules of evidence are relatively remote.  The case may be over before you ever utter a word.

After the employer has presented its case in chief, the employee is given a right to cross-examine the employer’s witnesses. Again, if you are not an experienced attorney this right has little value. My experiences been that few civilians actually understand how to effectively cross-examine their adversary.


Are You Ready to Examine - and be Examined?
Once the employer has closed its case-in-chief, the employee has a right to present his or her case. You must lay out your evidence concisely via testimony and introduction of exhibits.  The employee must be prepared to withstand cross-examination from the Commonwealth’s counsel, as well as intense, precise questioning from the presiding hearing officer.

What Should I Say in my Brief to the Civil Service Commission After my Pennsylvania Civil Service Hearing

Upon conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer may either permit the parties to submit a closing argument right then and there, or may allow the parties to submit a brief. If briefs are requested by the Commonwealth attorney, that request is usually granted. The Commonwealth often will request briefs, because its attorneys are paid on a salary basis (being employees of the Commonwealth), and they know that they hold a huge advantage over the ordinary civilian when it comes to presenting legal briefs.


The Transcript is the Record of Your Hearing -
Creating and Being Able to Brief the Record is an Art Form 
If briefs are permitted, then you must obtain a copy of the transcript of the proceedings. Writing a brief without the transcript is essentially a waste of time. The cost of the transcript can be several hundred dollars.

In the brief, your focus should be on the inability of the Commonwealth to prove its case.  You achieve this by pointing out inconsistencies in testimony by the Commonwealth’s witnesses, as well as conflicts between testimony and documentary evidence. 

In addition, your brief should wherever possible include citation to Pennsylvania Commonwealth court cases that support the employee’s position.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Employee Advocate

Philadelphia Area Civil Service Act Attorney Representing Employees


John A. Gallagher is an employment lawyer who represents employees in Pennsylvania. He routinely handles Civil Service Hearings in Harrisburg.

John typically represents workers who need an employment lawyer in Philadelphia County, Chester County, Delaware County, Bucks County, Berks County, Lancaster County and Montgomery County.

Pennsylvania Employment Lawyer Provides Free Telephone Consultations (15 Minutes in Duration)

If you are looking for an employment lawyer, and live in Malvern, Wayne, King of Prussia, Downingtown, Glenside, Doylestown, Radnor, Newtown Square, Exton, Philadelphia, West Chester, Skippack, Langhorne, Haverford, Nether Providence, Broomall, Drexel Hill, Reading or any of their surrounding towns, feel free to send me an e-mail or give me a call.  I am always glad to spend some time with people via a free telephone consultation.

Need an Experienced Lawyer for an Civil Service Hearing in Harrisburg?

Click Here if you have questions about any aspect of employment law, from wrongful termination, to wage and overtime claims, to discrimination and retaliation laws, to Family and Medical Leave

Click Here if you have questions about any aspect of Pennsylvania Unemployment Law, from willful misconduct, to voluntary quit, to Referee Hearings, to severance issues

Click Here to e-mail John directly; Mr. Gallagher has handled hundreds of Administrative Hearings throughout Pennsylvania.

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