Should physicians, who are licensed by the state of New York, be required to take a civil service exam in order to work for the state of New York? A state judge thinks so, but that’s unlikely to be the last word on the controversy.

After the Paterson administration reclassified 29 medical titles held by 1,700 state employees as “noncompetitive,” two public employee unions–Public Employees Federation (PEF) and Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)–objected.

Late last month, state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi ruled Governor David Paterson and Civil Service Commission Chair Nancy Groenweggen overstepped their authority,  reports  the Times Union.

Teresi didn’t go along with Groenwegen’s argument that it is difficult to recruit from the civil service test list to hire physicians, psychiatrists, dentists and veterinarians so the posts should be reclassified as “noncompetitive,” meaning no one would have to take a test and qualify based on their scores. The judge ruled the change would “have broad implications” allowing for “reclassification of essentially all licensed and certified professionals.”

Groenwegen has been passionate about the matter and is considering appeal. “We clearly believe the decision was wrong,” she said. “This does raise a fundamental question of how do you define a merit system in 2009?” She said she respects PEF’s concerns about the dismantling of the traditional merit system but the constitution allows for alternatives to tests to promote nimbleness and flexibility in hiring.

PEF President Kenneth Brynien says the action by the Paterson administration would have “opened the floodgates for placement of many other titles which require licensure.”

The state Department of Education licenses 48 professions, including doctors, architects, engineers, occupational therapists, accountants, social workers and speech pathologists.

The department also certifies teachers, who are not required to take civil service exams when applying for jobs in public schools.

Originally Published: NY Public Payroll Watch

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