What does it mean to be a Civil Service Employee?

Civil Service Law, Rules and Regulations

The Civil Service Law and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder, implement the mandate of the State Constitution, Article V, Section 6, which provides that "appointments and promotions in the civil service of the State and all of the civil divisions thereof, including cities and villages, shall be made according to the merit and fitness to be ascertained, as far as practicable, by examination which, as far as practicable, shall be competitive,..."

Civil Service Classification

Pursuant to New York State Civil Service Law:

Jurisdictional Classification

Civil service is divided into unclassified and classified service:

Unclassified Service

Unclassified service includes elective offices; legislative offices and employees; department heads; appointees of the Governor, officers, members and employees of boards of elections; and, the largest group, which includes teachers and supervisory personnel in the public schools, the State University and certain community colleges.

Classified Service
All positions not in the unclassified service are in the classified service. All positions in the classified service, when created, are automaticaly in the competitive class until the New York State Civil Service Commission takes action to place tem in the exempt, non-competitive or labor classes. The division of positions into these classes is called jurisdictional classification, and is based principally on the extent to which examination is practicable. The Civil Service Law divides the Classified Service into four categories or "classes" as follows:

Competitive Class
All positions are deemed to be in the Competitive Class unless designated as otherwise by the County Personnel Officer and approved by the New York State Civil Service Commission. The competitive class includes all positions for which it is practical to assess the merit and fitness of employees by competitive examination. The examination method may take the form of a written, oral or proficiency test, or a rating of training and experience, based upon the duties and qualifications as determined by the Personnel Department and as set forth in class specifications adopted for each position. An appointment to a vacancy in this class must be made from among the top three candidates on an appropriate eligible list willing to accept the position.

Exempt Class
The exempt class includes certain positions for which competitive or non-competitive examinations are deemed impractical. Positions in this class are usually at the policy making level and are authorized by law to act generally for and in place of their principals. Positions in this class serve at the pleasure of an appointing authority.

Non-Competitive Class
The non-competitive class consists of those positions for which it is practicable to examine applicants as to their qualifications, but not practicable to conduct examinations on a competitive basis. For the most part, this class consists of skilled trades positions. Merit and fitness are determined by examining the applicant's qualifications to ensure they meet the standards set forth in the class specifications adopted for each position. Many part-time positions that would be competitive if full-time, are designated as non-competitive due to their part-time nature, as approved by the New York State Civil Service Commission. Incumbents of positions in the non-competitive class obtain tenure rights under Civil Service Law Section 75 after five-years of service or less service years as provided by the Employee’s collective bargaining agreement. The non-competitive class positions also include higher level administrative, scientific or technical positions, positions involving a confidential relationship between the incumbent and the appointing authority, or involving the influencing of procedure. Positions so designated carry a “phi” designation as approved by the New York State Civil Service Commission. Incumbents of positions that carry a “phi” designation do not obtain tenure under Civil Service Law Section 75.

Labor Class
The labor class positions involve unskilled labor; however, qualifying tests may be required for appointment to labor class positions.


There are several types of appointments to the classified service:

  • Permanent Appointments – A permanent appointment can be made to all four classes subject to successful completion of the probationary period. Permanent appointments in the competitive class are made from eligible lists established as a result of competitive examinations. A permanent appointment can only be terminated, interrupted or discontinued in accordance with the laws, rules and regulations governing the classified service.
  • Contingent Permanent Appointments – A contingent permanent appointment is made from an eligible list to a position that is currently filled by another employee. Although the contingent permanent appointee serves a probationary period in the same manner as a permanent employee, full permanency cannot be guaranteed until the position becomes vacant. When the position becomes vacant, if the probationary term is completed, the contingent permanent employee may be granted permanent competitive class status retroactive to the date of the original contingent permanent appointment to that position.
  • Provisional Appointments – In the event that a vacancy occurs in the competitive class for which no eligible list exists, the position may be filled by a qualified applicant on a provisional basis until such time as an appropriate eligible list can be established. As soon as practical after a provisional appointment is made, the Personnel Department will hold a competitive examination for the position. The provisional employee will be required to compete against all other qualified applicants. A permanent appointment will then be made from the resulting eligible list.
  • Temporary Appointments – Temporary appointments may be made when there is a need for emergency work, a position is scheduled to terminate within a short period of time, to fill in for a permanent employee who is on a leave of absence or the position is pending “jurisdictional classification approval” by the New York State Civil Service Commission.
  • Seasonal Appointments – Seasonal appointments are made to positions designated with a starting and ending date. They cannot exceed three months in duration and cannot occur more than once a year. Such positions are generally classified in the non-competitive class. Appointments may be made from among applicants who meet the standards of fitness prescribed by the Personnel Department.
  • Probationary Terms – An Employee appointed permanently in the competitive, non-competitive, exempt or labor class must serve a probationary period. This probationary period may be upon hire, transfer or promotion. For details on the duration of the probationary term for a specific type of appointment, contact the Personnel Department.

Employees with questions regarding the administration of the Civil Service Law should contact the Personnel Department. Employees may also refer to the County of Ulster Civil Service Rules and Regulations on the New York State Civil Service.

Promotions and Transfers

Promotions and transfers are generally governed by Civil Service Law.

  • Promotions – Positions in the competitive class above entry-level are generally filled by promotion from among individuals holding competitive class lower grade positions in direct line within the department in which the vacancy exists. The Personnel Officer may determine that it is impractical or against the public interest to limit eligibility to individuals holding lower grade direct line positions. In these cases, eligibility for promotion may be extended to individuals in collateral lines or to comparable positions in any other unit or units, and may include minimum training and experience requirements. Interdepartmental promotions are allowed when deemed appropriate by the Personnel Officer.
  • Transfers – A permanent Employee may be transferred from a position in one department to a similar position in the same grade or lower grade in another department. Transfers require the written consent of the Employee and the Department Head with jurisdiction over the position to which the transfer is sought, and the approval of the Personnel Officer. Transfers will be allowed only when
    1. it is not practical to fill by promotion the position to which transfer is sought,
    2. there is no preferred list for the position and
    3. it is determined that the examination for the position currently held involved tests and qualifications the same as or greater than those to which appointment is sought.