Section 4 of Civil Service Rule XII provides that “Permanent employees may appeal to the Commission for a review of performance evaluations which are below a standard score or rating set by the Director.” Rule XII further states: “This review is a fact-finding examination for the purpose of detecting and correcting any abuse of discretion.”
Upon receipt of a written appeal for a review by the employee, the Human Resources Department places the request for appeal on the agenda for the next meeting of the Civil Service Commission. At that meeting, the Commission will first decide whether to accomplish the review through a fact-finding committee of two commissioners or by the Commission as a whole. The Commission will then set a mutually agreeable date for the fact-finding review.
After an employee files an appeal, the attorney in the County Counsel’s Office assigned to the case will schedule a meeting. The appellant’s immediate supervisor, the supervisor’s manager, County Counsel, and the Employee & Labor Relations representative should attend this meeting. Any other management representatives with relevant input should also attend (e.g. EEO Manager). At this meeting, the team should put together the department’s case, and anticipate and develop responses to the appellant’s case. The department’s case consists of:
- A listing of the standards/objectives which the appellant failed to meet
- Evidence, documents and/or oral testimony that the employee failed to meet the standards/objectives
- Evidence that the employee was counseled and given an opportunity to improve prior to issuance of the evaluation
A short summary (one page if possible) should be presented to the Commission and used as a “talking paper.” This “talking paper” will help to keep the Commission focused on the pertinent issues of the case, and will assist the Department representative in presenting the case in a logical, understandable manner. The paper should contain:
- A listing of the standards/objectives not being met
- Concise statements describing how the employee failed to meet the standards including data on the employee’s production/error rate, or complaints received
- A chronology of significant events, including:
- Beginning and ending dates of the rating period
- Dates of specific incidents reflecting substandard performance
- Dates of counseling sessions during the rating period
- Brief statements addressing anticipated allegations from the appellant
The Department should be represented before the Commission by the appellant’s immediate supervisor, a manager from the Department who is familiar with the case, and County Counsel to the Department. If other individuals are needed to provide specific information or testimony, they should be called as witnesses and dismissed after testifying rather than remaining for the entire session.
The case is introduced by briefly going over the “talking paper” and stating that the purpose of the fact-finding examination is to identify and correct any abuse of discretion.
- Either the manager or the supervisor presents the specifics of the case. To ensure clarity, only one person should present. The other can be called on to explain specific points, but the supervisor and manager should not divide up the presentation, as this tends to cause the Commission to lose focus. The presenter should direct the Commission’s attention to the “talking paper” and should refer to it as a guide. The case should be presented in a factual manner, without impugning the character or guessing at the motives of the appellant. Care should be taken to avoid references to the “attitude” of the appellant – focus on observable performance and behaviors.
- During the appellant’s presentation, management representatives should take notes of points raised by the appellant. Any inaccurate or misleading statements of significance should be briefly rebutted at the end of the appellant’s presentation. Statements made by the appellant that are not pertinent, or that would not be of significance to the Commission should be ignored. It is vital to focus the Commission on management’s case, rather than allow the appellant to obscure the case by engaging the Department in debates or discussions of irrelevant issues.
- All management representatives must be aware of the non-verbal communications they present to the Commission. Without knowing it, you can easily give these signals by rolling your eyes, frowning, commenting on, or shaking your head in disbelief at statements being made by the appellant or his/her representative. The Commission may interpret such behaviors as an indication that you do not openly listen to or respect the employee on the job.
- The Department’s case is concluded by making a closing statement summarizing the standards that weren’t met, describing how the employee failed to meet the standards, and stating that the Department did not abuse its discretion in evaluating the appellant.