Firefighter Bill of Rights and the Skelly Process
The Firefighter Bill of Rights and the Skelly procedure apply only to California. However, “Loudermill”*Rights (Hearing) is very similar to Skelly and applies across the nation. Although the Firefighter Bill of Rights and the Skelly Process share a number of guidelines-they are entirely separate documents.
The California Supreme Court ruled in 1975 on the Skelly hearing and the Firefighter Bill of Rights did not come into effect until 2008.
John F. Skelly, MD, was a physician in the State Department of Health Care Services. The Department fired him on July 11, 1972 for “intemperance, inexcusable absence without leave and other failure of good behavior during duty hours which caused discredit to the Department.
The California State Supreme Court ruled that Skelly had a property right to his job and could not be deprived of it without due process.
Due to a medical disability he never returned to work, but received a sizeable settlement. Following the ruling, the Supreme Court determined that the Skelly Process shall be followed for all permanent classified employees that have successfully completed the probationary period. This excludes probationary, temporary, and at-will employees, faculty, and administrators. It’s important to note that this applies to all governmental employees, not just firefighters.
1.The employee must be given notice of proposed action
· What you intend or propose to do to the employee
2.The employee must be given the reasons for the proposed discipline.
· What policies, procedures, laws, etc. has the employee failed to follow?
3. The employee must be provided a copy of the charges and materials upon which the action is based
The employee must be given these at the time the notice of adverse action is served. What are the supporting documents? All backup material, including but not limited to department policies/procedures, witness statements, photographs, investigatory report & findings. The agency must include everything, even if they believe the employee already has the document.
4.The employee has the right to respond, either orally or in writing to the authority initially imposing discipline. There is no requirement that the employee attend the meeting; he/she can respond in writing to the charge(s). This right to respond must occur PRIOR to final disciplinary action.
According to the courts, disciplinary actions that trigger “Skelly” Rights are defined as:
(2) Suspension with or without pay
(4) Involuntary transfer or reassignment
Actions that DO NOT trigger “Skelly” Rights
(1) Change in assignment, including removal of assignments that does not affect wages, hours, seniority, etc.
(2) Release from employment during probationary period
(3) Warnings, reprimands, oral counseling
FIREFIGHTER BILL OF RIGHTS**
The provisions specifically outlined
When a firefighter is under investigation that could lead to discipline, the interrogation must be:
· Conducted at a reasonable hour
· Conducted on duty (if off duty the firefighter must be compensated)
· Conducted for a reasonable period of time and must allow for reasonable breaks
The firefighter shall be notified of who will be in charge of the investigation and no more than two people will be conducting the interrogation.
The firefighter must be notified of the reason for the interrogation before it begins.
The firefighter may record the interrogation and he or she will have access to any transcripts of the interrogation.
If the interrogation may lead to punitive actions*, the firefighter is entitled to have a representative of his choice present at all times.
*Punitive action is defined as any action that may lead to discipline including dismissal, demotion, suspension, reduction in salary, written reprimand or transfer for the purposes of punishment,
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