California State Personnel Board

Established by the State Constitution, the State Personnel Board (SPB) is charged with overseeing the merit-based, job-related recruitment and selection process for the hiring of state civil service employees within California.   The Board itself is composed of 5 political appointees who oversee a panel of Administrative Law Judges, investigators and other personnel who conduct SPB’s numerous affairs.

Additionally, the SPB oversees compliance with the state merit system, investigates violations of state civil service laws and presides over a variety of appeals including disciplinary actions taken by state agencies.

Investigations/Appeals Heard By the SPB
  • Adverse Action
  • Rejection During Probationary Period
  • Medical Termination/Demotion/Suspension
  • Non-Punitive Termination/Demotion/Transfer (License Registration/ Revocation)
  • Termination of Limited Examination and Appointment Program (LEAP) Appointment
  • Termination of Career Executive Assignment (CEA) Appointment
  • California State University (CSU) Appeal
  • Appeal from Counties Without Approved Merit System
  • Request to File Charges
  • Complaints of Discrimination based upon disability, medical or mental condition (including denial of reasonable accommodation)
  • Examination Appeal
  • Request to Test – Dismissed Employee
  • Whistleblower Complaint
  • Merit Issue Complaint
  • Withhold from Certification
  • Voided Appointment
  • Pre-Employment Medical/Psychological Disqualification
  • Failure of Pre-Employment Drug Test
  • Out-of-Class Claim (Examination)
  • Petition for Rehearing
Your State Employment Is A Valuable Asset Worthy of Protection

GRT recognizes the immense value of your state employment, which extends beyond salary, to include substantial benefits and lucrative pension through the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS), potentially worth millions over your lifetime.
GRT strongly advocates for retaining your position with the State of California, understanding that each case demands a thorough analysis of your professional and personal objectives. Despite many state employees having union representation, the representation often does not provide you with an experienced attorney (or an attorney at all), does not wish to expend the time and resources to properly litigate against the state or simply does not have the necessary experience. If you are seeking adept legal guidance, we invite you to continue exploring our services and contact us for a comprehensive consultation.

More Information Pertaining to SPB Appeals & Procedures Generally

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Goyette, Ruano & Thompson proudly brings over 30 years of experience in successfully litigating hundreds of cases before the California State Personnel Board, encompassing a broad spectrum of issues.


In navigating the SPB process, the critical initial steps are to accurately file your appeal and ensure it is submitted timely. Each case before the SPB adheres to strict appeal deadlines, and failure to meet these can result in the rejection/dismissal of your appeal.

It’s crucial to note that not all appeals have the same deadline. For instance:

  • Appeals from disciplinary action filed pursuant to the provisions of Government Code sections 19575, shall be filed within 30 days after the effective date of the notice of adverse action.
  • Appeals from disciplinary action filed pursuant to the provisions of Education Code section 89539, subdivision (a), or Government Code section 19590, subdivision (c), shall be within 30 days of the employee’s receipt of the notice of adverse action.
  • Appeals from rejection during probationary period filed pursuant to the provisions of Government Code section 19175 shall be filed within 15 days of the effective date of the notice of rejection during probationary period.

For a comprehensive list of deadlines, please refer to:  (pages 4 & 5)

Appeals to the SPB can be submitted through its online portal (the most common method), or via email, fax, or mail. The SPB provides fillable forms to gather essential details for processing the appeal, including legal representation and the nature and scope of the appeal. Please note, you must Include the first page of the contested action to help SPB staff accurately align it with the required documents from the state agency.

Dealing with potential job, benefits, and income loss can be overwhelming. Having an advocate who understands the process and can ensure timely and accurate completion is crucial. Therefore, it is imperative to seek legal counsel without delay after receiving notice of any action against you to facilitate your appeal effectively.

Once an appeal is properly filed, the SPB will initially ensure it is within their jurisdiction and meets regulatory criteria. Appeals are categorized based on the contested action. Lesser appeals, such as formal reprimands, short suspensions, and minor salary cuts, are fast-tracked to an investigatory hearing. Rejections during probation (RDPs) may result in a hearing, but the ‘burden’ is shifted to the appellant (rejected employee), who maintains the burden of proving their case. RDPs also require a preliminary videoconference prehearing/settlement conference (PHSC).

For more severe penalties, a PHSC is the first step before proceeding to an administrative evidentiary hearing. These PHSCs, now exclusively via videoconference, are approximatley two-hour sessions aimed at negotiating a settlement under an Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) guidance. Participants must submit a PHSC statement 12 days in advance, and attendance is mandatory to avoid appeal dismissal.

During the PHSC, the ALJ will jointly and separately discuss with the parties, aiming for a settlement, which, if reached, is recorded, and reviewed by the SPB for final approval. If no settlement is reached, a hearing date is set. The ALJ from the PHSC, due to potential biases, will not oversee the hearing, ensuring a fresh ALJ reviews the case impartially.

Pre-Hearing and Settlement Conference Statement

As mentioned, you must submit a pre-hearing and settlement conference statement (PHSC Statement) 12 days before the PHSC. This document contains 11 statutory sections, relevant to the specifics of your case, including facts, defenses, and arguments.

Per SPB regulation 57.1(f) the PHSC statement shall contain the following information:

(1) The identification by SPB Case Number of all appeals or complaints pending before the Appeals Division or the board, arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences.

(2) A brief summary of any stipulated facts.

(3) Identification of affirmative defenses to any claim.

(4) A current estimate of the time necessary to try the case.

(5) The identity of each witness each party may call at the hearing, the subject matter on which the witness is expected to present evidence, and a summary of each witness’s expected testimony. Parties are not required to disclose any witness that will be called for rebuttal or impeachment purposes.

(6) The identity of any witness who may be called to testify who is an inmate of any correctional facility. In addition, at the discretion of the Chief ALJ, such individuals may be required to testify via closed circuit television, or by other electronic means.

(7) The name and address of each expert witness each party intends to call at the hearing, together with a brief statement of the opinion each expert is expected to give, and a copy of the current resume or curriculum vitae of each expert witness.

(8) A list of documentary exhibits each party intends to present at the hearing, and a description of any physical or demonstrative evidence. Parties are not required to disclose exhibits that will be used for rebuttal or impeachment purposes.

(9) A concise statement of any significant evidentiary issues to assist the ALJ in conducting the hearing.

(10) Dates of unavailability of the parties, counsel, and witnesses.

(11) If Respondent knows or should know that a portion or all of the hearing will be held by videoconference, dates of unavailability of Respondent’s videoconferencing equipment.

These elements are essential to your case’s evidentiary structure and defense strategy. Understanding your case’s potential trial progression is crucial for two reasons: first, it enables effective settlement negotiations by clarifying the case’s strengths and weaknesses; second, omitting a defense, witness, or evidence in your PHSC statement can preclude their introduction at an eventual hearing, should one result.

SPB Reg 57.1(g) states, “Failure to timely file or fully disclose all required items in the prehearing/settlement conference statement without good cause may, at the discretion of the ALJ, result in the exclusion or restriction of evidence at the hearing.”

This emphasizes the necessity of submitting a comprehensive PHSC statement, prepared by a skilled attorney. It is vital to cover all aspects of your case, including defenses and relevant issues, to avoid potential evidence exclusion at hearing.

Other Pre-trial considerations which may impact your PHSC statement

Discovery: involves obtaining extra information from the state employer that wasn’t included in the initial disciplinary file. This process, undertaken by you and your legal team, entails formally requesting access to witnesses, records, and physical evidence like documents or multimedia from the state agency. These discovery requests are time-sensitive, generally needing to be made within 90 days post-appeal filing with the SPB. Be aware that acquiring new documents or evidence may necessitate amending your previously filed PHSC statement.

Affirmative Defenses: Asserting an affirmative defense may be necessary in your case. This type of defense, when proven, completely negates the action taken against you. Examples include unlawful discrimination and whistleblower/retaliation. These defenses are crucial but can be challenging to establish. Initially, the employee must prove the wrongful conduct by the employer, after which the employer must demonstrate that their action was based on legitimate, independent reasons. Given their complexity, affirmative defenses often lead to extensive legal proceedings. It is vital to thoroughly prepare the factual and evidential groundwork early in the appeal process, as these defenses must be included in the PHSC statement.

Law & Motion: During your appeal process, it may become necessary to file specific motions. Deadlines for such motions should be filed either within 90 days of the appeal submission to the SPB or within 15 days upon realizing the motion’s necessity. Motions can aim to postpone part of the hearing, dismiss the case, or compel discovery when facing non-cooperation from the state. You may also be required to demonstrate “good cause” for the motion’s approval, such as justifying a hearing extension.

Subpoenas: A subpoena can mandate a witness’ attendance at a hearing. With hearings now virtual, witnesses must either access a state-provided virtual site or have the necessary technology to participate remotely. The subpoena clarifies their obligation to attend and confirms their release from work duties for the hearing. Witness details must be included in the PHSC statement, requiring advance identification and confirmation of their availability before setting trial dates.

These highlighted issues are interconnected and demonstrate the complexities of SPB’s legal proceedings. Securing an experienced attorney with comprehensive case knowledge is crucial for a successful outcome.

Full evidentiary hearings

Appeals that proceed without settlement advance to a full evidentiary administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). These hearings follow the SPB’s procedural rules with more flexible evidence standards, granting the ALJ greater discretion in evidence admissibility. Hearings typically include opening statements, witness examinations, evidence presentation, and closing arguments, with duration varying based on case complexity and the volume of evidence and witnesses.

Appellants must attend the entire trial, and state employees are entitled to release time for participation. Each case is unique; your GRT attorney will guide you through what to expect.

For more information on the evidentiary hearing specifics, please see: (Section 1, Article 6, pg 22)

Investigatory Hearings

For “lesser” appeals, the procedure for examining witnesses and presenting evidence mirrors that of a full evidentiary appeal, with a key distinction: proceedings must conclude within six hours, allowing three hours per side. To expedite the hearing, witness testimonies can be submitted as written affidavits. Additional constraints, like limited pre-hearing discovery, may also apply.

For more information on the specific parameters of these hearings please see here: (Section 55.2, page 21)

Given the constrained time frame of these proceedings, it is essential to use time efficiently and prioritize your defense effectively.

After your trial/hearing, the ALJ or hearing officer will draft a decision following SPB regulations, which serves as an advisory to the SPB Members. The SPB may adopt (“sustain”), modify, or revoke this decision and can request further proceedings, including oral arguments on specific case issues. Ultimately, you will receive a final decision, which in most instances becomes definitive upon delivery to the involved parties, as per SPB regulation 51.6.

Unlike in some public employee appeal processes, the decision rendered by the SPB is not binding meaning that either side could further appeal the matter by way of a Writ of Mandamus to the superior court of proper jurisdiction.  For more on the writ appeal process please visit here on our website.   Please note that much like all of the processes before the SPB, there are applicable time sensitive deadlines for filing a writ appeal.

Petition for Rehearing. Prior to filing a writ, a party dissatisfied with an SPB decision can also petition for a rehearing. From the SPB Appeals Resource Guide:

“A party dissatisfied with the Board’s decision in an appeal from adverse action, non punitive termination, or a final decision after the grant of a request to file charges may challenge the Board’s written decision by filing a petition for rehearing.

The Board will grant a petition for rehearing only if the requesting party shows that due process was denied in the original hearing; new and compelling information now exists that was not available at the time of the original hearing; factual findings were made and/or omitted in error; and/or the decision contains legal errors.

The petition for rehearing must be filed with the SPB Appeals Division within 30 days of service of the SPB decision. If the petition is not filed timely, the decision becomes final. If the petition is filed timely, the opposing party will be asked to file a response. The petition will be forwarded to the SPB for review and decision at a regularly scheduled Board meeting.” (page 47)

Petitions for Back pay.  On occasion after an employee successfully appeals a monetary in whole or in part, the State simply refuses to honor the decision for one reason or another.  If that happens then the prevailing employee may file a specific petition seeking to compel the state to reimburse the employee for all applicable backpay and relevant benefits.

For more information see: (Section 61, page 46)

California State Personnel Board Attorneys

If you need a California State Personnel Board attorney contact our office to schedule your case evaluation. Call us today at 916.851.1900 or fill out the form below.

Paul Goyette Entrepreneur Lawyer
Paul Goyette

Founder, CEO & Partner

Rafael Ruano
Rafael Ruano

CAO & Partner

Daniel Thompson
Daniel Thompson


Eric Acevedo, Attorney
Eric Acevedo

Attorney at Law

Janelle Crandell, Associate Attorney
Janelle Crandell

Attorney at Law

David J. Garcia, Attorney
David Garcia

Attorney At Law

Alison Gilmore

Attorney at Law

Brandon Largent, Attorney
Brandon Largent

Licensed Lawyer

Amanda Malucchi, Law Clerk
Amanda Malucchi

Attorney at Law

Scott Nelson, Associate Attorney
Scott Nelson

Attorney at Law

Brent Sherman Attorney
Brett Sherman

Attorney at Law

Nicole Valentine, Attorney
Nicole Valentine

Attorney at Law

Ian Woo Goyette Attorney
Ian Woo

Attorney at Law