County moves to opt out of civil service requirements

The county is taking steps to opt out of the state’s civil service program, which Commissioner Josh Shapiro calls “antiquated” and ill-suited to the county’s needs.

Most county employees already work under a merit-based system; the change would affect about 300 workers in the departments of Aging, Behavorial Health, and Children and Youth.

After a yearlong review, the commissioners voted Thursday to notify the state of their intent to opt out of the civil service system.  The state will have 60 days to review the county’s proposal.  Other counties, including Berks and Chester, have already completed the process. 

Shapiro ticked off a list of reasons why he feels a merit system would be better for workers and managers alike:

“When you go to hire someone, the job descriptions under the civil service program don’t adequately reflect the jobs that need to be done.  … In hiring, you have the rule of three, where you have to limit it to three resumes and choose from those individuals.  There are a number of inherent restrictions in the system, limiting people’s ability to move up if they don’t have a certain amount of seniority, even if their performance merits a bump up in pay or a bump up in position or title.”

The civil service system also limits employees’ ability to move from one county department to another.

Supporters of the civil service program say it protects workers by eliminating bias and favoritism from government employment. 

Any county workers who object to the change will have 90 days to air their grievances.  A final vote and transition to the new system could happen by this fall, Shapiro said.