Employer Bears Burden Of Proof In Disciplinary Case

Kimberly Falk worked for the Lee County, Florida Sheriff’s Department. When her employment was terminated, she appealed to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Civil Service Board. The Board affirmed her termination, and Falk appealed to the Florida Court of Appeals.

The Court reversed Falk’s termination, finding that the Civil Service Board applied the wrong burden of proof. The Court ruled that “where an agency terminates an employee for certain stated grounds, reason, logic and the law would require that the agency affirmatively carry the burden of proving the essence of its allegations. In its order, the Board reasoned that, because Falk was appealing her termination, she had the burden of proof as the appellant to establish that her termination was without just cause. However, the fact that the aggrieved employee must initiate a hearing before the Commission or that such action is denominated as an appeal does not alter the proposition that the burden of proving the basis for termination rests with the employing agency.”

Falk v. Scott, 2009 WL 3232698 (Fla. App. 2009).

This article appears in the December 2009 issue