You’ve worked hard to obtain and maintain your job. Now, that might all be crashing down around you after claims of wrongdoing or failure to abide by your state agency’s policies. Fortunately, though, public sector employees have a whole host of protections that they can rely upon to prevent themselves from being subjected to wrongful discipline or termination. One of those protections is the Skelly hearing.
For public sector employees
As a public sector employee, you’re entitled to due process before your employer takes a negative employment action against you. This means that you must be put on notice of your employer’s intent to take disciplinary action and what that intended discipline looks like. You should also receive materials that support the disciplinary action sought, which may include correspondences and witness accounts. You’ll also be allowed to respond to the allegations supporting the requested disciplinary action.
The purpose of the Skelly hearing, then, is to ensure that you’re not unfairly deprived of your civil service right to employment. The officer who conducts the hearing is supposed to be impartial and unbiased, thereby giving you a fair opportunity to make your arguments and an accurate assessment of the fairness of the proposed action. The individual who conducts the Skelly hearing has a lot of discretion, though, which means that the extent to which you may or may not be allowed to present additional evidence may depend in part on who is hearing your case.
How the hearing plays out
Generally speaking, when you show up to the hearing the reviewing officer will outline his or her role and read the contents of the notice of disciplinary action. You are then allowed to provide an opening statement and your employer can respond. The presentation of additional evidence may be allowed, but this hearing is going to be kept short and isn’t going to be handled like a trial.
Once the hearing concludes, the Skelly officer might take the matter under advisement and issue a written determination later. That decision may be to uphold the disciplinary action, agree with the allegations but reduce the type of discipline to be imposed, or dictate that additional investigation is needed given the evidence that the employee presented at the hearing.
What’s the likelihood of success in a Skelly hearing?
The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of disciplinary actions are upheld in Skelly hearings. But that doesn’t mean that you should forego the process altogether. This is because there may be new evidence in your case that the hearing officer is unaware of and may be indicative of mere retaliation or other wrongdoing on the part of your employer. You might have the ability to present these arguments in writing through a brief, which very well could protect your employment. Additionally, these hearings can give you some insight into the arguments that will be utilized if you decide to take formal legal action against your employer.
Preparing for your Skelly hearing
Public sector employees who head into these hearings typically fall into two groups: those who disagree with the allegations of wrongdoing and therefore want to escape discipline altogether, and those who agree that there was some wrongdoing but disagree with the severity of punishment being doled out. Regardless of which class you fall into, you need to be prepared to thoroughly and aggressively present your position.
There are many ways to do this. You might want to demonstrate that you weren’t subjected to progressive discipline, which may support a finding that the discipline sought to be imposed is improper, or you may want to present evidence that contradicts the allegations of wrongdoing. Either way, make sure that you’re diligent in gathering the evidence that supports your arguments.
We know that the thought of being reassigned, demoted, or fired can be stressful. But you have options available to defend yourself. If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to protect your interests, then we encourage you to discuss your circumstances with an attorney you can trust.