Guide Learn about Civil Service

Please find Information on Civil Service law, selection, appointment, promotion and termination processes for prospective employees, current employees and appointing authorities.

What is Civil Service?

State and municipal employees may be hired and promoted under the civil service merit system in accordance with Civil Service Law, Chapter 31 and the Personnel Administration Rules.

Civil service appointments are generally made by appointing authorities who select qualified applicants who have taken a competitive examination or have completed a registration process. The Civil Service within the Human Resources Division is responsible for overseeing the administration of the Massachusetts merit system.

The Civil Service Commission hears and decides appeals of public employees under the protection of civil service laws by ensuring that employment decisions are based on the relative ability, knowledge and skills of the public employee, and to ensure that all individuals receive fair and impartial treatment.

Generally, the Civil Service Commission hears bypass, disciplinary and reclassification appeals for public service employees.

Additional Resources

Definitions for Eligible List

CT:  A  ruling from the United States District Court.  This action generally allows an applicant to be placed at the top of a community’s or a specific department’s eligible list for consideration for hire

534/310: A decision rendered by the Civil Service Commission under MGL c. 534 of the Acts of 1976 as amended by c. 310 of the Acts and Resolves of 1993. This action generally allows an applicant to be placed at the top of a community' s or a specific department's eligible list for consideration to the next vacancy.

402A: Chapter 402A of the Acts of 1985, amending Law Chapter 31, Section 26 - enables a child of a police officer or firefighter who passes the required written, medical and physical examinations to receive a statutory preference in placement on all entry-level police officer or firefighter eligible lists if the police officer or firefighter was killed in the line of duty and benefits are paid to the beneficiary due to the parent's death.

402B: Chapter 402B of the Acts of 1985, amending Law Chapter 31, Section 26 - enables a child of a police officer or firefighter who passes the required written, medical and physical examinations to receive a statutory preference in placement on all entry-level police officer or firefighter eligible lists if the police officer or firefighter was permanently and totally disabled in the line of duty and if through a special act of the legislature received a retirement pension equal to his/her regular rate of compensation had s/he continued in service.

Disabled Veterans: Must first meet Veterans preference as defined in Law Chapter 4, Section 7, clause 43 as amended by Chapter 116 of the Acts of 2004, and subsequently provide supporting documentation from the U. S. Veterans' Affairs Office indicating a service-connected disability of 10% or more.

Veterans: Law Chapter  4, Section 7, clause 43 as amended by Chapter 116 of the Acts of 2004 defines veterans' preference as:

  • 180 days of regular service and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions, or
  • 90 days of active duty service, one (1) day of which is during "wartime", and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions.

A chart defining "wartime" service is available on-line on the Veterans' Services website.

Residency preference: To qualify for residency preference placement on the eligible list in a particular community, candidates must have resided in the "municipality for the entire twelve-month period immediately preceding the date of the examination." The appointing authority will require verification of residency for consideration prior to an appointment. Failure to do so could result in a candidate's removal from the eligible list. 

Statutory Preferences: Certification Order of Lists

Rank - your placement on the eligible list for the municipality/department for which you have selected Residency Preference. If you are ranked number 10, there are 9 names ahead of you on the list.

Ties within Rank - the number of candidates who scored the same as you and have the same preference(s). If you are ranked number 10 and have 2 ties within rank, there are two candidates (you and another) with the same placement on the eligible list.

Certification Order of Eligible Lists

  1. RE-EMPLOYMENT LIST
  2. ROSTER LIST OF RESERVES OR INTERMITTENTS
  3. OPEN COMPETITIVE LISTS

Each of the above certification types must be finalized, including a statement of the reason for not appointing any applicant who is willing to accept, before considering applicants on subsequent types of lists.

ORDER OF APPLICANTS ON ELIGIBLE LISTS

CONSENT DECREE

NON-CONSENT DECREE

Resident Minority Applicant Ch. 534

Chapter 534 Applicant

Resident 402A Applicant

Resident 402A Applicant

Non-Resident 402A Applicant

Non-Resident 402A Applicant

Resident Disabled Veteran Applicant

Resident Disabled Veteran Applicant

Resident 402B Applicant

Resident 402B Applicant

Non-Resident 402B Applicant

Non-Resident 402B Applicant

Resident Veteran Applicant

Resident Veteran Applicant

Resident Civilian Applicant

Resident Civilian Applicant

Non-Resident Disabled Veteran Applicant

Non-Resident Disabled Veteran Applicant

Non-Resident Veteran Applicant

Non-Resident Veteran Applicant

Non-Resident Civilian Applicant

Non-Resident Civilian Applicant

NOTE: In municipalities hiring under the provisions of the NAACP v. Beecher federal consent decree, minority applicant names are placed on the certification in the first position and every fourth position thereafter, except Springfield.

Sequence of Recalls and Appointments for Municipal Service

The Human Resources Division has determined there is a need to clarify the means by which employees who have been separated from employment pursuant to Civil Service Law Chapter 31, Section 39 because of lack of work, lack of money or abolition of positions may be recalled to work in either their own or another department.  The order of appointments made subsequent to recalls is also being clarified. 

Order of Recall

The sequence of recall is as follows:

  1. Reinstatement to one’s former department under the provisions of Law Chapter 31, Section 39
  2. Reemployment under the provisions of Law Chapter 31, Section 40
Reinstatement: Law Chapter 31, Section 39

Permanent employees who have been separated from permanent civil service positions because of lack of work, lack of money or abolition of positions have the right to be reinstated in the same unit and in the same or similar positions to those formerly held if positions become available at any time within ten years from the effective date of their separation.  Such reinstatements must be effected before appointments are made to the title through any other means, including issuance of a reemployment list or certification from an open competitive eligible list.

Reemployment: Law Chapter 31, Section 40

Permanent employees who have been separated from permanent civil service positions because of lack of work, lack of money or abolition of positions have reemployment rights for a period of two years.  The name of such employees will be placed by the Personnel Administrator on a statewide reemployment list for the title previously held by those employees. 


Order of Appointments

Subsequent to exhausting recall procedures through reinstatements under Section 39 and use of the reemployment list pursuant to Section 40, the order of appointments is as follows:

  1. Disability Retirees returning to work
  2. Transfers pursuant to Law Chapter 31, Section 35 or Reinstatement to one’s former department pursuant to Law Chapter 31, Section 46.
  3. Appointments from the intermittent or reserve force (where applicable).
  4. Appointments from eligible lists.
Disability Retirees returning to work

Chapter 306 of the Acts of 1996 provides for automatic reinstatement of an employee after clearance by the medical panel.

Appointing authorities no longer have discretion as to reinstatement because retired members cleared by a medical panel are automatically to be reinstated, White v. Boston, 428 Mass. 250, 254 (1998).

In Sullivan v. Brookline, 435 Mass. 353 (2001), the Supreme Judicial Court determined that an individual who has been retired on disability benefits for longer than five years must go through a two-step process before returning to work:

• A regional medical panel must declare that the individual’s condition has changed and he or she is no longer disabled.

• The individual must complete a retraining program.

Central to the Brookline case was the Supreme Judicial Court’s interpretation of two laws:

Law Chapter 32, Section 8, paragraph 2, which requires cities and towns to reinstate individuals who are no longer disabled, and

Law Chapter 31, Section 39, which requires individuals who have been away from their job for more than five years to complete a retraining process.

Transfers pursuant to Law Chapter 31, Section 35

A tenured employee may be transferred to a similar position in the same or in another departmental unit after request in writing for approval of such transfer made to the Administrator by the Appointing Authority or authorities for such unit or units and with the approval of the Administrator.  The transfer request must include reasons, which, in the opinion of the Administrator, are sound and sufficient to show that the transfer will be for the public good and will not impose unreasonable hardship on such employee. A position shall not be considered similar if it has a title higher than that of the position from which the transfer is to be made or if the requirements for appointment to such positions are substantially different.

Reinstatements: Law Chapter 31, Section 46

Permanent employees who become separated from their positions for reasons other than lack of work, lack of money or abolition of position (e.g. resignation) may be considered for reinstatement in either their former department.  This consideration is at the option of the Appointing Authority and requires the approval of the Personnel Administrator based on whether or not the reinstatement would be in the public interest.  Section 46 does not create any right to recall and it is inapplicable to recalls of persons separated pursuant to Section 39.  No person shall be recalled under Section 46 unless the Appointing Authority has exhausted recall procedures under Sections 39 and 40.

Intermittent or Reserve Police or Fire Forces: Law Chapter 31, Section 60

Where applicable, original appointments to the lowest title in a regular police or fire force shall be made from among the permanent members of an intermittent or reserve force.  Seniority for these original appointments is computed from the first date of full-time employment as a permanent employee on the regular force in conformity with the provisions of Law Chapter 31, section 33.  No person shall be appointed under Section 60 unless the Appointing Authority has exhausted reinstatement and reemployment procedures under Sections 39 and 40.

Law Chapter 31, Sections 25, 26, 27, 58A, 59, 60A, 61A and 61B.  Appointments from eligible lists shall be made in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 31, Sections 25, 26, 27, 58A, 59, 60A, 61A and 61B as well as the applicable Personnel Administration Rules

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