Court Ruling Undercuts DC Resident Hiring Preference
Residents Still Excluded from City Job Applicant Pools Before Preference Applied
Washington, DC — A District of Columbia Superior Court ruling cuts the heart out of a resident preference law for DC jobs, a measure authored by mayoral candidate Carol Schwartz. As a result, District residents may continue to be passed over for civil service jobs in favor of preferred Maryland and Virginia applicants, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) which brought the suit and is preparing an appeal of the ruling.
The “Jobs for D.C. Residents Act of 2007” requires that every “bona fide” District resident receive a 10-point “residency preference” bonus on a 100-point scale when applying for the vast majority of jobs within D.C. government. As administered, however, the law has had no effect, as less than half of the roughly 31,000 people who hold city jobs live in the District. It is functionally nullified because:
- D.C. residency preference points are not added to an applicant’s score until after the tallying of Certification lists that place applicants into categories such as “highly qualified” and “well qualified.” This policy renders the residency points meaningless, as many D.C. applicants are screened from further consideration before their preference points are applied;
- Even for those applicants who make it into a ranking category from which selections are made without the benefit of their preference points, contrary to federal law, candidates who do not qualify for a residency preference are selected over other those who have the preference; and
- The District Human Resources Department routinely grants waivers of residency preference requirements.
PEER brought suit on behalf of D.C. resident Barry Weise who was summarily dismissed in 2012 from his position as advisor to the Director of the District’s own Department of the Environment, Christophe Tulou, who was fired on the orders of top aides to Mayor Vincent Gray. In the ensuing months, Weise, a highly qualified civil servant, was passed over for numerous jobs for which he was more than qualified. Adding insult to injury, he was not allowed credit for his 20 years of District residency.
Late last week, D.C. Superior Court Judge Thomas Motley dismissed the suit ruling that the law gave the District broad discretion on how it is implemented and these nullification tactics were not disallowed.
“We do not believe the City Council meant to write the District resident preference in disappearing bureaucratic ink,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, who represented Weise, noting that then-Council Member Schwartz was the lead author of the 2007 law. “This is a form of cronyism where District agencies can ignore rules in order to select favored candidates and bar those in disfavor.”
PEER filed suit after a February complaint about hiring irregularities to the District Inspector General received no reply.