Election 2021

Should Philly have more flexibility when hiring city employees? (Ballot question)

Council members and others say eliminating the “Rule of Two” would widen the pool of candidates, and provide equitable access to top jobs.

Philadelphia City Hall

Philadelphia City Hall

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

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Applying for most jobs with the City of Philadelphia requires taking a written test tailored for the position. This is true for everyone from electricians to janitors. Applicants are then ranked based on their scores.

Currently, when a department head wishes to fill an opening for a job type, the department head can pick only from the two top-scoring applicants. The policy is known as the “Rule of Two.” An applicant not ranking in the top two remains on the scoring list for future consideration for the same type of job but currently cannot be scheduled for an interview with the same department more than twice.

Approval of this ballot question would change these things. Supporters say this would make the hiring process more equitable and lead to increased diversity in the municipal workforce.

What you’ll see on the ballot

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to revise provisions related to the civil service system, to allow the Personnel Director to determine the number of people on an eligible list from which a hiring or promotion decision may be made, and to determine the number of times a person may be passed over and remain eligible on such a list, all based on the position and the needs of the civil service program?

What it means

Voting “Yes” on the question means you approve of allowing the city’s personnel director to decide how many applicants the department head may choose from, based on the type of job and the needs of the civil-service system. It would also allow the personnel director to decide how often someone can be considered for a job, instead of establishing a specific number limit.

A 2017 Philadelphia comparison with 35 other peer cities found that no other municipality adhered to a Rule of Two.

“The rule is continually cited by departmental leadership as an impediment for hiring,” said Michael Zaccagni, director of human resources for the city, at a City Council committee hearing in June.

Elimination of the Rule of Two “will give the city significantly more flexibility to address recruitment and diversity challenges,” said City Council in June, when it unanimously passed legislation to place the charter-change question on the Nov. 2 ballot.

For example, an applicant might not score in the top two but might have relevant experience or a technical skill needed by a department, such as the ability to speak a foreign language or maintain the kind of lights used on the airport’s runways.

Compared with the city’s population, Hispanic and Asian workers are underrepresented among full-time civil-service workers, according to a recent report by the independent nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew research found that “the Rule of Two dictates a cumbersome process that can lengthen the time needed to fill positions. As a result, some qualified candidates may drop out of contention, find other employment, or opt out of being interviewed.”

What else is on the ballot

Click through for an explanation on each initiative you’ll vote on Nov. 2.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2021 stories.

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