What is it?
An employee is given the opportunity to reply, either orally, in writing, or both, to the charges made in the Intent Letter. This reply is the employee’s chance to tell his/her “side of the story” before a decision is made regarding the proposed discipline. In the reply the employee may deny the charges, may explain mitigating circumstances, or may argue that the proposed discipline is not at the appropriate level. The employee may have a representative at this meeting. When giving the employee dates to reply orally or in writing, give the employee three or four workdays to schedule a hearing. Give the employee seven workdays from the date of the letter for (1) the hearing to take place and (2) the employee to provide a written response.
For non-punitive disciplinary actions, the Skelly process also affords the employee the opportunity to enter into a “Rehabilitation Plan.” This process is described in Section 7: Conduct.
Who does it?
The individual who reviews the written reply and/or hears the oral reply must be someone who has not made up his/her mind about the case. This does not mean that the hearing official cannot know anything about the case. It does mean that he/she must not have already decided that the employee is guilty of the charges and must not have already decided that the proposed level of discipline is appropriate. The hearing official can be the same individual who will make the decision to take or not take the proposed discipline, or the deciding official can ask someone else to hear the employee’s reply and make a recommendation. If the responsibility of hearing the reply is delegated to someone other than the deciding official, that individual must be in a position to make an independent recommendation to the deciding official (he/she cannot work for the individual who proposed the discipline.)
In the written or oral reply, the employee responds to the charges and facts contained in the Skelly Intent Letter. The employee may question the factual accuracy of the charges, may raise issues of inconsistency with other similar cases, or may raise mitigating circumstances which he/she feels explain or excuse his/her actions. An employee may also acknowledge the accuracy of the charges but argue that a lower form of discipline is appropriate.
The deciding official must consider the issues raised in the employee’s reply. The deciding official may need to further investigate the matter; for example, if new information is brought to light. The deciding official may also consider the individual’s demeanor at the hearing, considering such factors as sincerity, remorse, and the employee’s acknowledgement or failure to acknowledge his/her responsibility in the matter. The deciding official then makes a determination to sustain, mitigate, or overturn the proposed discipline.
If the responsibility of hearing the reply has been designated, that individual considers all of the above factors and then makes a verbal recommendation to the deciding official to sustain, mitigate, or overturn the proposed discipline.