CalHR is responsible for the administration and management of the Merit System Services (MSS) Program for certain local government employees. Pursuant to California Government Code sections 19800 – 19811, CalHR ensures that counties receiving federal funds for Social Services and Child Support programs use a merit personnel system for program employees that meets the following six merit principles:
Recruitment, selection and advancement of employees is on the basis of their relative ability, knowledge, and skills, including open consideration of qualified applicants for initial appointment.
Employees are provided equitable and adequate compensation.
Employees are trained, as needed, to assure high quality performance.
Employees are retained on the basis of the adequacy of their performance, inadequate performance is addressed, and employees whose inadequate performance cannot be corrected are separated.
Applicants and employees are assured fair treatment in all aspects of personnel administration without regard to political affiliation, race, color, national origin, sex, religious creed, age, or disability and with proper regard for their privacy and constitutional rights as citizens. This "fair treatment" principle includes compliance with the federal equal employment opportunity and nondiscrimination laws.
Employees are protected against coercion for partisan political purposes and are prohibited from using their official authority for purposes of interfering with or affecting the result of an election or a nomination for office.
CalHR assumed responsibility for this program under the Governor's Reorganization Plan Number One of 2011. Currently CalHR contracts with Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS) HR Consulting to audit and provide services to counties.
The State of California adopted Local Agency Personnel Standards (LAPS) to implement Government Code Sections 19800 -19811. Of the 58 California counties, most are authorized to administer their own personnel systems for program employees based on CalHR's review and approval of their personnel management system. These counties are often referred to as Approved Local Merits Systems (ALMS) counties. These ALMS counties are periodically audited to ensure that they continue to be in compliance with LAPS.
The remaining counties comprise the Interagency Merit Systems (IMS) counties. Through CalHR, CPS provides technical human resources support and services to these counties to ensure they adhere to LAPS standards.
CalHR has recently updated the regulations that govern MSS employees.
Enacted MSS Regulations
California Code of Regulations sections 17010 through 17047
If you have been subject to a disciplinary action due to alleged unacceptable performance or conduct, you may appeal the disciplinary action to CalHR within thirty (30) calendar days of the date on which the disciplinary action became effective. Your appeal does not need to be in any specific format, but it must be written and must include a description of why you are appealing and how you want CalHR to modify the action taken against you. Appealing the adverse action will NOT stop it from becoming effective.
Once your appeal has been received by CalHR, CalHR will provide a copy of your appeal to your employer. CalHR will also assign a Hearing Officer to hear your appeal. At the hearing, your employer must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the disciplinary action against you is supported by the evidence and that proper procedures were followed. You and your employer will be able to request subpoenas before the hearing and, at the hearing both parties may examine witnesses, introduce exhibits, cross examine witnesses, and impeach witnesses. If you choose not to testify on your own behalf, the employer may still call you as a witness or cross-examine you.
The Hearing Officer will manage the scheduling and conduct of this hearing and is empowered to grant or deny extensions of time, set hearing dates, conduct the hearing and administer oaths, rule on evidence, and request additional evidence and legal briefing from the parties. Hearings are public unless the Hearing Officer decides that closing the hearing is appropriate.
Within ninety (90) calendar days after all the evidence has been submitted, CalHR will issue a final decision and will provide it to both you and your employer. The decision may uphold the disciplinary action or modify the penalty to a lower level of discipline depending on your employer's personnel system.
If you or your employer disagrees with CalHR's decision, either party may file a petition for rehearing with CalHR within thirty (30) calendar days after service of the decision. The petition for rehearing must be in writing and must say why you believe there should be another hearing. Within thirty (30) days of the filing of the petition, CalHR will serve a copy of the petition on the other parties.
CalHR will decide whether to grant or deny the request for a rehearing, in part or in full, within sixty (60) calendar days of its service of the other parties. If CalHR grants the request for rehearing, it may order a new hearing or may decide the matter based on the exiting record and arguments made by both parties. If CalHR does not officially grant or deny the petition within ninety (90) calendar days from filing, the request for rehearing has been denied.
California Code of Regulations section 17034
If you are employed in a county that makes appointments on a probationary basis and you are rejected during that probationary period, you may appeal your rejection if you believe that the rejection was done in bad faith. Your appeal must be filed with CalHR, in writing, within thirty (30) calendar days of the effective date of the rejection. At the hearing, you will have the burden to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that you were rejected in bad faith.
Your appeal will not delay the effective date of the rejection.
California Code of Regulations section 17036
You may appeal any of the following if it occurred during your selection process:
irregularity, discrimination, bias, or fraud in one or more steps of an examination
for improper acts or circumstances that resulted in incorrect interpretation and application by the examiners, of the skills, knowledge, and abilities considered essential for satisfactory performance in the class at issue
Such appeals must be filed with CalHR within thirty (30) calendar days of the date on which you received notice of the decision that you are appealing. After receiving your appeal, the Director of CalHR will appoint a Hearing Officer to hear your appeal. The Hearing Officer may collect written evidence or may choose to hold an evidentiary hearing. Either way, you will have to convince the Hearing Officer, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the selection process was conducted improperly and that, as a result, you were ineligible for consideration by the local agency. Within sixty (60) calendar days of submission of all the evidence, the Director of CalHR will render a decision.
Your appeal does not prevent appointment of another applicant. However, the Local Agency, in its own discretion, may decide to delay the appointment. If your appeal results in the correction of ratings, that correction will not affect any appointments already made from the eligible list.
California Code of Regulations section 17042
If your employment is affected by a reduction in force, you may appeal your employer's decision if:
your employer failed to comply with an element of its Personnel Plan and this failure to comply adversely impacted you, or
a miscalculation in your seniority score occurred and that seniority was a factor in the order of layoff.
Before contacting CalHR, you must attempt to resolve your dispute with your employer. If you and your employer are unable to resolve your dispute, you may appeal your layoff to CalHR. Your appeal must be received by CalHR within thirty (30) calendar days of the date on which you were notified that your employer would not change its decision as you requested. When you send your appeal to CalHR, you must include evidence that you attempted to resolve your dispute with your employer prior to filing the appeal with CalHR.
After your appeal is received by CalHR, you will have the opportunity to submit evidence to CalHR, either through documents or at an evidentiary hearing. With the evidence that you submit, you must demonstrate that your employer failed to comply with an element of its Personnel Plan and this failure to comply adversely impacted you or that a miscalculation in your seniority score occurred and that seniority was a factor in the order of layoff. Once all the evidence has been submitted, CalHR will issue a decision on your case within sixty (60) days.
Your appeal will not delay the layoff or reduction in force, unless your employer decides that a delay is appropriate.
California Code of Regulations section 17043
If your employment has been altered for a failure to meet a requirement for continuing employment, such as a termination based on unapproved absence, an action based on your medical condition or other non-disciplinary action, you may appeal if:
the non-disciplinary action taken against you was improper because your employer failed to comply with an element of its personnel system; or
your employer took this action against you for an unlawful reason.
Before appealing to CalHR, you must attempt to resolve the action with your employer. If you and your employer are unable to resolve the issue, you then have thirty (30) calendar days from the date you were informed that your employer would not provide your requested relief to file an appeal with CalHR. Your appeal to CalHR must be in writing, and must include the basis for the appeal and evidence that you attempted to resolve the matter with your employer before appealing to CalHR.
When CalHR receives your appeal, a Hearing Officer will be appointed to your case. You must prove to the Hearing Officer, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the non-disciplinary action taken against you was improper because your employer failed to comply with an element of its personnel system or your employer took this action against you for an unlawful reason. The hearing will proceed in the same manner as a hearing for an appeal of a disciplinary action. The Hearing Officer will prepare a proposed decision and a final decision will be issued by the Director of CalHR within ninety (90) days of the submission of all the evidence.
After the final decision has been issued, your right to reinstatement to your former position will be determined by your employer in accordance with its personnel system.
California Code of Regulations section 17012
A county is permitted to use its own personnel system to govern the employment of MSS employees, if it first receives approval from CalHR. To do so, the county must send a request to MSSProgram@calhr.ca.gov. CalHR will review the county's personnel system and may request other documents to assist in its determination that the county's personnel system is consistent with federal requirements.
In its review, CalHR will consider
Procedures and rules for employee recruitment, selection, and advancement
Compensation policies and procedures
Training policies and practices
Performance evaluation standards and procedures, including procedures for correcting and disciplining employees for poor performance
Overall fairness of the Personnel System, including policies regarding equal employment opportunity and discrimination
Rules regarding conflicts of interest including rules protecting employees from coercion for partisan political purposes and prohibiting employees from using their authority to interfere with actions of other relating to elections.
If CalHR approves the county's personnel system, the county must then certify that it is operating its personnel system consistently with the information provided to CalHR and that it will continue to do so. If CalHR denies a county's request to operate all or part of its personnel system, CalHR will provide the reasons for the denial to the county in writing. The county can renew its request at any time.
A county may also apply to CalHR to be allowed to administer a part of its personnel system to MSS employees. To do so, the county would follow the same process as a county seeking to apply its entire personnel system to MSS employees. Once approved, the county can apply the approved process or procedure to MSS employees while the remainder of their personnel system will be administered by CalHR.
Once approved, the county may begin administering all or part of its personnel system to MSS employees. The county must retain records relating to the personnel management of MSS employees and will provide a copy of the retention policy to CalHR on request. If the County has no retention policy, the county will retain records for seven years from the date of action or from the date of separation, whichever is longer.
Once the county is approved to operate its personnel system for MSS employees, it will periodically be audited by CalHR to ensure that its personnel system remains in compliance with federal standards. During the audit, the county may need to meet with representatives of CalHR, provide documentation, allow CalHR representatives to visit the relevant local agencies, and participate in an exit interview. When the draft audit report is completed, it will provided to the county. The county may submit written comments in response to the draft audit and those comments will be included in the final report.
If your county was approved to operate its personnel system by the State Personnel Board prior to January 1, 2014, your county need not reapply to CalHR. However, CalHR may request that the county acknowledge its acceptance of new standards adopted by CalHR.
California Code of Regulations section 17013
If the county wishes to challenge the findings of an audit of its compliance with its approved personnel system, the county may request that the Director of CalHR convene a hearing to resolve the disputed audit findings within thirty (30) calendar days of the issuance of the audit report. The request must be in writing and must include a description of what parts of the audit report are disputed.
After the request has been filed, the county and a representative of CalHR ("the parties") will be notified that a Hearing Officer has been appointed. Within thirty (30) calendar days after the parties are notified of the appointment of the Hearing Officer, the parties must send a written statement of their positions to the Hearing Officer and to each other. After receiving and reviewing the parties' written statements, the Hearing Officer will decide if it is necessary to have oral presentations. If the Hearing Officer does request oral presentations, the Hearing Officer has discretion to determine the scope and manner of the presentations.
Thirty (30) calendar days after receiving all the material requested, the Hearing Officer will prepare a draft determination and submit it to the Director of CalHR (Director). The Director then has thirty (30) calendar days to act on the Hearing Officer's draft determination. The Director may adopt the draft determination or may require that additional information be provided to the Hearing Officer and that the decision be resubmitted to the Director after the receipt and consideration of that new information. If the Director fails to act within those thirty (30) calendar days, the draft decision will be considered adopted by the Director.
The burden is on the CalHR Representative to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the County's personnel system is out of compliance with the federal regulations.
The Director's decision will include a determination of whether the county's authority to operate all or part of its personnel system is rescinded or modified. If the Local Agency is directed to take action by the Director's final order and fails to do so in the designated period, the Director will notify the state officer responsible for administering the Program of his or her decision that the Local Agency is not in conformity with federal requirements.
you have any questions regarding MSS appeals or converting to an ALMS county, contact MSSProgram@calhr.ca.gov.