Saturday, May 5, 2012

Commission denies challenge by veterans to special language certification

The Commission ruled last week that municipalities are permitted to consider and appoint candidates with special foreign language skills before considering candidates who are veterans, despite the statutory preference given to veterans by the civil service law. The appeal in Gaynor v. Boston Fire Department arose after the Boston Fire Department requested and received from the Commonwealth's Human Resources Division a "selective certification" of firefighter candidates with Spanish-language proficiency. The Fire Department invoked Personnel Administrative Rule .08(6), which authorizes the issuance of selective certifications for candidates with special qualifications. However, Section 26 of the civil service law expressly requires that disabled veterans and veterans appear first on any certification. The firefighters in Gaynor argued that the statutory preference given to veterans and disabled veterans  necessarily trumps the administrative rule giving preference to candidates on a selective certification. The Commission disagreed. According to the Commission, which ruled unanimously, candidates on a selective certification have a special skill that other candidates do not have, and thus such candidates are not being appointed over veterans who do not have this skill The Commission further denied the firefighters' argument that the Fire Department did not support its request for a foreign language certification with sufficient evidence of need.