What is it?
This Skelly letter informs the employee of the intent to take a disciplinary action. It sets forth the proposed discipline, the Civil Service Rule(s) that the employee violated, and the facts upon which the charges are based. Please refer to Civil Service Rule XIII, Section 4 at https://hr.smcgov.org/civil-service-commission-rules
The Intent Letter also advises the employee of the right to review any documents upon which the proposed disciplinary action is based (material relied on), and of the right to reply to the charges verbally, in writing, or both. There is a specified time frame by which the employee can invoke the right to reply; it is generally within seven normal business days from the date the Intent Letter is issued. If the employee is represented, the letter also advises him/her of the right to union representation.
In the next to last paragraph of this Skelly Intent Letter, you advise the employee that “All written materials, reports and documents upon which this action is based are available to you for your review by contacting (NAME).” These “materials, reports, and documents” are referred to as the “materials relied on” and usually consist of counseling notes, written complaints from customers or coworkers, attendance records, interview notes, and other documentation.
The material relied on is the evidence upon which you are basing the proposed discipline, and no other material may subsequently be introduced to support the disciplinary action (unless a revised Skelly Intent Letter is issued to supersede the first).
Since the material relied on constitutes the evidence upon which you are proposing discipline, it is reasonable to expect that this material is in your possession and is readily accessed. In some instances, however, when the employee or his/her union has requested these materials per the Skelly statement quoted above, the material has not been available and long delays have occurred in providing it. When this happens, the Skelly meeting must be postponed to allow the employee/union time to review the material in preparation for the meeting. This delay results in a parallel delay in making a decision regarding the proposed disciplinary action.
Of more significance, the fact that the material relied upon is not available leads to the conclusion that this material was not relied on at all but was assembled after the fact to support a decision that had already been made. This is not the kind of message we want to send to employees.
To ensure you are prepared to respond to requests for material relied on, you should follow these steps:
- Conduct a thorough, unbiased investigation of the incident(s)
- Interview the employee(s) involved to hear his/her side of the story and take detailed notes
- Interview any witnesses and take detailed notes
- Assemble all documents, including notes from your interviews of the employee(s) and witnesses, into a file
It may be necessary to code material released to the employee or his/her union representative to protect the identity of individuals. This requirement usually involves the release of medical or law enforcement information that can be tied to individual persons, or of personnel records for employees other than the individual being disciplined. Any questions relating to disclosure of information should be referred to your Employee & Labor Relations representative.
Who does it?
Although the information upon which a disciplinary action is based usually comes from the employee’s direct supervisor, the Intent Letter must be signed by a manager. Normally the first level of management above the employee for whom the discipline is proposed signs the Intent Letter. Since the employee has the right to reply to the deciding official or her/his designee prior to the deciding official making a determination about whether to sustain the proposed action, the Intent Letter should never be signed by the department head (unless the employee works directly for the department head).
Note: Counseling/confirmation letters, letters of warning, letters of reprimand, and other forms of corrective action are normally issued directly by the supervisor.
Prior to initiating disciplinary action, contact Employee & Labor Relations for guidance on drafting the letter and on determining the appropriate level of action to propose. Once it is decided to propose disciplinary action, the signed Intent Letter is delivered to the employee. Whenever possible, the letter should be hand-delivered rather than mailed to the employee. In these instances, the individual who delivers the letter to the employee should annotate a copy of the letter indicating the date and time the letter was given to the employee, and sign his/her name. If the employee is absent without leave or otherwise not available to receive the letter personally, it should be mailed to his/her home address by both regular and certified mail. The individual placing the envelope in the mail should annotate a copy of the letter indicating the date and time it was placed in the mail, and sign his/her name.
Copies of the Intent Letter should be sent to the Department Head, the hearing official (if not the Department Head), the Human Resources Director, Employee & Labor Relations as well as filed in the employee’s Civil Service and departmental personnel files.