Login  | 
Orange Field Office

What is a Skelly?


“Skelly” Rights

“Skelly” is an interesting word. It should NOT be confused with the dice game usually played in the streets by hustlers or sometimes kids.  But,
rather an integral part of labor relations representation and part of the formal discipline process.  It has been around long enough in Employee-Employer labor relations jargon to become a regular word. Actually about 36 years, since the 1975 court decision of the same name.

In Skelly v. State Personnel Board (1975), the court ruled that the employee (Skelly) had a property interest in continued employment, and hence, could not be deprived of his job without the observance of due process. Although the LLNL/UC argued that this did not apply to their employees, a decision by the California State Court of Appeals, Mendoza v. Regents of University of California (1978), decided otherwise. The appellate court ruled that since Ms. Mendoza was not accorded due process prior to dismissal, she was entitled to back pay, etc.


But what really is a Skelly and how does it actually impact the workplace?
 
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects a public employee’s right to both a property and liberty interest in employment. The California Constitution also provides a similar protection. The California Supreme Court has stated that “when a person has a legally enforceable right to receive a government benefit, provided certain facts exist, this right constitutes a property interest protected by due process.” Hence, under the court’s interpretation, the job is actually characterized as the employee’s property. This was articulated in 1975 by the California Supreme Court in the now famous case called Skelly v. State Personnel Bd., 15 Cal. 3d 194.

The concept of due process should be defined at the outset. It generally means that, prior to any significant discipline; an employee must be afforded the charges against him/her and an opportunity to present his/her side of the issue in an informal setting. 

The court decisions, including Skelly and later decided cases, have long established that public employees who may be terminated only for cause (i.e., not on probation and not specifically at-will) have a property interest in their continued employment. Therefore, a public employer must satisfy the procedural due process requirements before depriving a permanent employee of his/her property interest through disciplinary action. Usually, a public employer can satisfy these procedural requirements with a minimum of impact to the organization.

Skelly thus applies to discipline that constitutes a “taking” of property (the employee’s job) and may include discipline that is short of termination if it is nevertheless "significant.” Significant is one of those hard to define legal terms and the courts continue to struggle with it. With regards to short term suspensions of public employees, the Court has acknowledged that “suspension of a right or of a temporary right of employment may amount to a ‘taking’ for ‘due process purposes.” In relation to significant employee discipline, regardless of whether or not good cause is ultimately found to exist for the discipline, before an employee can be deprived of the property interest he/she has in a job, certain procedural safeguards must be provided.

Due process, however, does not require that the employee be given a full evidentiary hearing prior to imposition of discipline. It does require that the employee be accorded certain procedural safeguards before the discipline becomes effective. The term Skelly is thus considered synonymous with pre-discipline hearing procedures.

The basic Skelly decision held that, as a minimum, pre-removal safeguards must include: 

  1. Notice of the proposed action,

  2. The reasons for the action, 

  3. A copy of the charges and materials on which the action is based, and 

  4. The right to respond, either orally or in writing, to the employing agency imposing the discipline. 
Note: Skelly rights are pre-disciplinary safeguards and are required even where the public employer, at a later time, provides a full evidentiary hearing after imposing the discipline. These safeguards are not overly burdensome and should be satisfied by an employer with a minimal effort.

The remedy for denial of due process by virtue of a Skelly violation is back pay for the period in which the discipline was improperly imposed. Thus, the back pay period commences on the date of actual discipline and ends on the date the employer reaches a decision on the discipline’s validity.

In summation, the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects a public employee’s right to a property interest in employment. Skelly v. State Personnel Bd. is the leading court case that has sought to define and clarify these due process interests. Most permanent (non- probationary) public sector employees in California have a legally enforceable property right to continued employment, subject to minimum due process protections.

Understanding this, an employer should be able to meet the requirements of the Skelly due process and protect an employee’s interest, with a minimal impact to the organization.

If you have any other questions, or are facing a Skelly hearing, always consult your Labor Relations Representative.



Contact Information

ORANGE Field Office
326 W KATELLA AVE #E, ORANGE 92867
Main#: (714) 532-3766
Toll-free: (800) 564-9979
Fax:(714) 771-8412
Use Extensions below with Main or Toll-free #


FIELD DIRECTOR
TIARA COX
Ext: 7120
Direct: (714) 532-7120
tcox@csea.com

TEMPORARY FIELD DIRECTOR
PATRICK PREZIOSO
Ext: 7120
Direct: (714) 532-7120
pprezioso@csea.com

SR LABOR REL REP
DANIEL TORRES
Ext: 7137
Direct: (714) 532-7137
dtorres@csea.com

ADMINISTRATIVE SPECIALIST
YVONNE OLMOS
Ext: 7122
Direct: (714) 532-7122
yolmos@csea.com

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
KIMBERLY SLANE
Ext: 7132
Direct: (714) 532-7132
kslane@csea.com


Labor Representatives

ROBERT DEWITZ
Ext: 7128
Direct: (714) 532-7128    
rdewitz@csea.com

ISABELLE FRANZ
Ext: 7138
Direct: (714) 532-7138    
ifranz@csea.com

JASON GEANAKOPOULOS
Ext: 7121
Direct: (714) 532-7121    
jgeanakopoulos@csea.com

AMY GONZALES
Ext: 7133
Direct: (714) 532-7133    
agonzales@csea.com

MICHAEL LEON
Ext: 7124
Direct: (714) 532-7124    
mleon@csea.com

CECILIA LOPEZ
Ext: 7134
Direct: (714) 532-7134    
clopez@csea.com

KARLI NEVAREZ
Ext: 7125
Direct: (714) 532-7125    
knevarez@csea.com

ANTHONY SOLIS
Ext: 7126
Direct: (714) 532-7126    
asolis@csea.com

ERICA WILLIAMS
Ext: 7123
Direct: (714) 532-7123    
ewilliams@csea.com