civil service

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Civil Service

The designation given to government employment for which a person qualifies on the basis of merit rather than political patronage or personal favor.

Civil service employees, often called civil servants or public employees, work in a variety of fields such as teaching, sanitation, health care, management, and administration for the federal, state, or local government. Legislatures establish basic prerequisites for employment such as compliance with minimal age and educational requirements and residency laws. Employees enjoy job security, promotion and educational opportunities, comprehensive medical insurance coverage, and Pension and other benefits often not provided in comparable positions in private employment.

Most civil service positions are filled from lists of applicants who are rated in descending order of their passing scores on competitive civil service examinations. Such examinations are written tests designed to measure objectively a person's aptitude to perform a job. They are open to the general public upon the completion and filing of the necessary forms. Promotional competitive examinations screen eligible employees for job advancement. Veterans of the Armed Services may be given hiring preference, usually in the form of extra points added to their examination scores, depending upon the nature and duration of their service. Applicants may also be required to pass a medical examination and more specialized tests that relate directly to the performance of a designated job. Once hired, an employee may have to take an oath to execute his job in Good Faith and in accordance with the law.

Unlike workers in private employment, civil service employees may be prohibited from certain acts that would compromise their position as servants of the government and the general public. For example, the federal Hatch Act (5 U.S.C.A. § 7324 et seq. [1887]) makes participation by federal, state, and local civil service employees in designated public electoral and political activities unlawful.

The U.S. Civil Service Commission, created by Congress in 1883 and reorganized under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C.A. § 1101 et seq.) as the Merit Systems Protection Board, established a merit system for federal employment and governs various aspects of such employment, such as job classification, tenure, pay, training, employee relations, equal opportunity, pensions, and health and life insurance. Most states have comparable bodies for the regulation of state and local civil service employment.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

civil service

in the constitutional law of the UK, servants of the Crown who are permanent and do not change with a political change of government. There is no definition of a Crown servant. A subordinate who is employed by a civil servant is a servant of the Crown and not of the person employing him. Recruitment and examination, for many the insignia of a mature and independent civil service, have for over one hundred years been carried out by the Civil Service Commission, a body established not by statute but by order in council. Independence is supported by having pay decided by the Civil Service National Whitley Council. They may be precluded from being able to strike on grounds of national security. Civil servants have no special constitutional status separate from the minister they serve and have no right to reveal confidential information in the public interest, an issue discussed in relation to official secrets. There is a sliding scale of permission to take part in politics, the higher the official, the lesser the activity permitted.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
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