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What is a Skelly Hearing?

A Skelly Hearing derives its name from Skelly v. State Personnel Board (15 Cal. 3d 194) in 1975. Dr. Skelly, a public employee, was terminated from his employment with the State of California. The California Supreme Court determined, among other things, that he was deprived of his due process right to pre-disciplinary discovery – the “materials upon which the action is based.” A Skelly hearing allows an employee to respond to the allegations prior to the imposition of any actual disciplinary action. For County employees this only applies to formal discipline.


What is a Skelly Hearing?

A pre-imposition opportunity to respond to the proposed discipline;

An opportunity to refute factual allegation(s);

An is opportunity to mitigate severity of penalty;

Attendees at a Skelly Hearing:

The Department Head or designee;

A representative from the Human Resources

A representative from the Legal Department (if applicable – always in dismissal cases)

The employee being disciplined

The employee’s union representative or attorney


Due process prerequisites:

Must have received notice of proposed discipline

Notice must allege specific rule/policy violation

Notice must allege factual basis for violation

Notice must be served with all documents that were relied upon by the proposing official

Notice must provide deadline for response

Notice must include effective date of discipline

Refuting the factual allegations in a Skelly Hearing:

Best to bring new information not discovered during internal investigation

Look for investigative conclusions that are simply not supported by the evidence

Highlight inconsistencies from witness to witness or from statement to statement by the same witness

Seek to delete editorial comments


Mitigating the level of penalty in a Skelly Hearing:

Discuss prior discipline history

Discuss progressive discipline if appropriate

Discuss performance evaluations

Discuss commendations

Discuss tenure

Discuss any personal issues that may have contributed to the misconduct, e.g., divorce, death, health, PTSD, burnout, etc.

Discuss alternatives

Discuss last chance agreements/demotion


Skelly Hearing outcome:

Generally no decision will be at the Skelly hearing. Ideally, the County will consider all the information and make a final decision as soon as possible


Potential outcomes of a Skelly Hearing:

An additional investigation based upon the employee’s statements (this is not likely to occur)

Sustaining the level of discipline

Reducing the level of discipline

A settlement agreement 

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