Saturday, April 26, 2014
A recent Civil Service Commission decision has highlighted how persistent understaffing at the Human Resources Division's Civil Service Unit negatively affects civil service candidates and employees. Sarah Fisher, a candidate for appointment to firefighter in Chicopee, took the firefighter's examination in April 2010 but could not take the Physical Ability Test scheduled for that August due to her pregnancy. In the meantime, Chicopee requested and received a certification for original appointment in March 2011, and Ms. Fisher's name did not appear on the certification because she had not taken the PAT. In July 2011, after she gave birth, Ms. Fisher made repeated request to HRD to reschedule her PAT. HRD never responded. Eventually, after she had a legislator contact HRD, the agency arranged for her PAT in April 2012. After passing the PAT, her name was added to the certification from the 2010 exam, but by that time Chicopee had already made its appointments from the list.
Ms. Fisher lost her appeal in part because her overall score after taking the PAT would not have placed her within the 2n+1 range of candidates who could have been considered for appointment, so she was not technically "aggrieved" under Chapter 31. However, her ordeal highlights an increasingly reported issue about HRD not being able to respond to questions and concerns of individual candidates and civil service employees. The understaffing at the Civil Service Unit has been well known for sometime. It is apparent that the understaffing affects the rights of individual candidates to equal and fair consideration in appointments. This problem is especially problematic when it implicates rights enjoyed by pregnant candidates, since this raises concerns that HRD's understaffing has a disproportionately negative effect on women.