Many times we hear about public employees like teachers and cops being suspended with pay. Many people think that this is some sort of slap on the wrist that is simply a paid vacation, and the public employee will face no further discipline. That is simply not the case.
That paid suspension is actually a part of the employee’s constitutional rights. The case was Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill, a 1985 case that was decided by the US Supreme Court. The underlying question for the case was:
“Can the government remove a civil servant’s property rights to employment before providing an opportunity for that employee to respond to the charges offered for his termination?”
The court said that the Constitution prevents the government from depriving anyone of their property without also providing that employee a chance to defend themselves. Calling witnesses, having counsel, a hearing, and all of the other due process rights that any other person would have before the government can take something from them.
So back to our cops and teachers. A cop or teacher is being considered for termination or unpaid suspension. In order to do that, the administrative authority who will take that action must hold a hearing where the employer (the government) will present its reasons for terminating or suspending the employee. The employee then has an opportunity to bring their own witnesses, present their case, and respond to the allegations. Only then can the employee be terminated or suspended.
Until that hearing has been held, an employee cannot be deprived of anything. That includes their job and their pay. So this leaves the employing agency in a quandary: Do you leave the disgraced employee in his or her job? Many employers choose not to, and will suspend the employee with pay, pending further proceedings.
After the punishment has been imposed, the employee has the right to appeal that decision in front of a court. If the appeal is successful, then the employee will likely be reinstated with back pay. This appeals process can sometimes take years.