When a government employee is arrested and charged with a crime related to her job, most public employers take some form of action—typically suspending the employee pending trial.
If they are found guilty, they usually are terminated. Then the employee is entitled to “some sort of a hearing,” according to Supreme Court precedent.
But what if criminal charges wind up being dropped? Rest assured, you can still discipline the employee if you conduct your own investigation, interview witnesses and then give the worker a chance to refute the allegations.
Recent case: Lisa worked as a health and physical education teacher. When a student accused her of having sexual contact, Lisa was arrested. She got a school hearing and was suspended after administrators presented a copy of the charges.
Later, after the charges were dropped, another hearing was scheduled. This time, the results of an internal investigation were presented, which included the same allegations.
Lisa resigned and sued, alleging the resignation was forced and that both hearings were inadequate.
The court tossed out her case. It reasoned that Lisa got the constitutional protection she was entitled to—that is, “some sort of a hearing” where she had a chance to hear the charges and present her side of the story. (Guttilla v. City of New York, No. 14-V-156, SD NY, 2014)
Final note: The hearing isn’t a full-blown trial. You just owe the employee an explanation and an opportunity to explain her side.
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