State workers fall into two categories: merit and non-merit employees. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's “New Deal” program established a merit system for civil personnel as a reaction to the economic depression of the 1930s. This system strives to fill public-service positions with the best and brightest, bolstering employee morale along the way. While the merit system was installed as a requirement for receiving federal funding and employment services, state agencies also employ non-merit personnel.
Though the classification of civil service employees may vary per state, most merit – or “classified” – employees complete a working test period. The state must have just cause to discipline merit personnel. Merit employees have the right to file complaints and grievances regarding issues such as employee treatment, position classification and reinstatement. Some states maintain a register of eligible applicants.
Non-merit employees do hot have the same protections. The state may demote, discipline, dismiss or transfer non-merit personnel for any reason, as long as it does not conflict with public policy. Appointing authorities have full control of non-merit, also known as “unclassified” employees. However, non-merit employees still have the right to file complaints over dismissal, demotion and suspension.
The state, not the employee, reaps the most benefits when it comes to unclassified workers. Non-merit employees provide state agencies with a quick and flexible hiring solution that doesn't require as much paperwork as hiring classified employees. Non-merit salaries, unlike merit salaries, are not limited by set pay scales.
Unlike merit employees, non-merit employees do not have full grievance protection. Because non-merit positions do not have set-in-stone minimum requirements, some non-merit employees may lack the necessary job qualifications. While non-merit salaries are more flexible than merit salaries, their non-uniform structure can lead to confusion and inconsistency. Perhaps the biggest concern for non-merit employees is the fact that the state can terminate them at will.
- Photo Credit ATELIER CREATION PHOTO/iStock/Getty Images