By Heather Phillips, Labor and Employment Divison
How to Respond to Disciplinary Action at Work
You were just served with a Notice of Proposed or Intended Discipline. Now what?
First, say nothing about the facts of your case to the person serving you with the notice. Sign that you received the Notice (this does not mean you agree with it) and politely leave. Do not engage in a question and answer session. This almost always hurts your case.
Second, search the Notice for the section discussing your “appeal rights” or “right to respond.” This provides you with a deadline by which certain actions must be taken.
Third, call your Association or Goyette & Associates. Inform them of the deadline and type of discipline that your Department is proposing. Your representative will take it from here. Provide him/her with everything that was given to you by the Department. This usually includes the Notice and several attachments or discs.
What happens now?
If the discipline proposed is a Written Reprimand your appeal rights will be limited, because it is considered minor discipline. However, you still have a right to (at the very least) respond in writing and insist that your response is attached to the Reprimand. Your representative can help you draft this response to make sure you make the most of it.
Any discipline proposed that involves a change in your salary, a disciplinary transfer, a demotion, a suspension, or a termination, does not go into effect until after you have had a right to respond with your representative through what is called the Skelly process. Your salary cannot be impacted until a final decision is served on you after the Skelly process is complete.
A Skelly process is not a hearing (even if it is called that in the Notice). This is an informal opportunity for your representative and you to try to get the Department to change its mind. There are no witnesses in a Skelly. You will meet with your representative and discuss the best strategy and your representative will present argument and facts to the Skelly Officer.
Following the Skelly process, the Department will either a) maintain its prior position and serve a Final Notice or b) call you representative to try to negotiate a lower level of discipline in exchange for a waiver of your appeal rights.
If/when you are served with a Final Notice, provide it to your representative immediately. Within a few days, your representative will have to file a Notice of Appeal. The Appeal is a formal hearing in which the Department will have to prove the allegations against you. Speak to an attorney now, if you have not already, as very specific rules apply to the presentation of witness testimony and evidence in these hearings. You have the right to present a defense in this hearing and it must be done in a specific format to be of any help to you in reversing or lowering the discipline against you.