Sunday, March 8, 2015
As a tenured civil service employee, you can't be terminated or suspended without good cause. You also have a right to a hearing before being terminated or suspended. Before hand, your employer has to hold a hearing, but you are NOT required to testify. The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently made clear that the procedural protections available to a tenured civil service employee (written notice of the disciplinary action, a hearing on whether there is just cause for the proposed action, the opportunity to be answer the allegations personally or by counsel, and appeal of any hearing determination to the Civil Service Commission) are benefits afforded to an employee and not obligations imposed on the employee.
In Worcester v. Civil Service Commission, et al., the Worcester Police Department began proceedings to terminate Officer Leon Dykas. The City sent Dykas a notice of his upcoming termination hearing, along with an order to attend the hearing and testify truthfully. When Dykas refused to testify at the termination hearing, the City attempted to terminate Dykas not for the underlying offense, but for violating their order to testify. Dykas appealed, arguing that the order to testify was unlawful. The Appeals Court emphatically agreed. The hearing, reasoned the Court, is an opportunity for the employee to be provided with the reasons for termination, not “to provide the appointing authority with an additional investigative venue once the decision to terminate employment or to sanction the employee has been made.”
The main point is that tenured civil service employees, unlike at-will employees, have the benefit of procedural protections against unjust discipline or termination. How the employee uses those protections is his or her decision. If you’ve received notice of a suspension or termination that you think is unjust, call our office to find out how we may be able to help.