Employee Discipline

County of Santa Clara Public Employee Law Daniel A. Menendez

Public Employment Law covers the conflicts between public employees and the cities, counties, and special districts that employ them. Public sector employees generally have more workplace rights than private sector employees. 

What Rights Do I Have as a Public Employee?

Most public sector employees have different employment rights than private sector employees, who can generally be fired "at will" under California Labor Code Section 2922. Discipline and discharge from public employment is usually "for cause" and requires "progressive discipline" unless expressly stated otherwise for senior management or temporary employees.

Employing agencies must follow specific policies and procedures before legally disciplining or discharging public sector employees. The State of California's constitution requires due process before taking final action to discipline or discharge an employee. This due process may extend beyond the employment itself to particular job assignments or loss of pay. California public employers must provide employees with notice of the proposed action (often called a "Notice of Intended Discipline"), the documents upon which the action was based, and the opportunity to respond (often referred to as a "Skelly hearing" under Skelly v. State Personnel Board (1974) 15 Cal.3d 194). Once the employer considers the employee's response and imposes discipline (often through a "Notice of Discipline"), the employee may then appeal the discipline or discharge in front of an arbitrator or a civil service commission.

Daniel A. Menendez’s unique experience and reputation in public employment law centers on a keen understanding of the complex procedures associated with pursuing claims against public entities. Mr. Menendez has handled numerous claims against school districts, cities, counties, public utility entities, and state licensing boards in the following areas:

  • Weingarten Investigations
  • Skelly v. State Personnel Board hearings
  • Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act (FFBOR) related investigations and hearings
  • Government Tort Claims Act proceedings
  • California Public Records Act (CPRA) compliance and litigation
  • Board of Registered Nursing investigations and litigation
  • Personnel, Civil Service, and Merit Board hearings
  • Arbitrations (disciplinary and contract interpretation)
  • Public Employment Relations Board unfair practice charges and hearings under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA)

Notable accomplishments include:

  • Full reinstatement and back pay, with interest, for city firefighter terminated for alleged violation of “pre-employment agreement”
  • Full reinstatement and back pay, with interest, for county program manager demoted for alleged insubordination and dishonesty
  • Full dismissal of insubordination and negligence charges against city firefighter for alleged failure to notify and seek approval from supervisor for scheduled regional training
  • Resolution of insubordination and dishonesty charges against city firefighter for alleged dishonesty and conduct unbecoming of a firefighter
  • Resolution of Board of Registered Nursing complaint against nurse for allege overmedication of a patient with nurse retaining license
  • Resolution of Board of Registered Nursing complaint against nurse for alleged falsification of patient documentation with nurse retaining license