Lincoln judge issues ruling in HHS workers’ dress code fight over jeans | Crime and Courts

A more than two-year fight over dress code changes for Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services workers has ended — for now — with employees able once again to wear jeans not just on Fridays.

A Lincoln judge this week upheld an arbitration award that found HHS had violated its labor contract with union workers by unilaterally changing the dress code in 2019, banning jeans Monday through Thursday. 

But Lancaster County District Judge Robert Otte was clear. His decision didn’t mean HHS couldn’t ban jeans in the future. 

In December 2019, the department changed its dress code, requiring all employees to wear business casual clothing Monday through Thursday. Jeans, T-shirts and sweatshirts no longer were allowed.

Soon after, Christine Slaymaker and more than 200 other members of the Nebraska Association of Public Employees (NAPE), Local No. 61, the union representing government workers in the state, filed a grievance challenging the revisions. 

People are also reading…

  • Steven M. Sipple: With Athletic Department ‘on edge’ in July, Alberts’ hire critical, Cook says
  • Two hospitalized after stabbing in Lincoln leads police to hanging man
  • Steven M. Sipple: Critical period for Thompson; Alberts’ culture clues; and Fred’s vulnerability
  • LPS school board names four finalists for superintendent
  • LPS school board upholds firing of Lincoln Southeast teacher
  • Frost, Husker assistants conduct home visit with top remaining 2022 target
  • Juvenile killed in rollover crash near Seward, sheriff’s office says
  • Statute of limitations passed, attorneys tell the story of Pioneer Pete’s negotiated return in Lincoln
  • Paperwork, finger-pointing and Twitter: How Gretna was stripped of the Class A football title
  • 64-year-old woman dies after brake failure causes collision east of Lincoln
  • How white supremacy changed Herbie Husker, who’s no longer signaling ‘a-OK’
  • As transfer portal frenzy nears lull, where do the Huskers still need ‘difference-makers?’
  • Lincoln man arrested after warrant turns up heroin, meth, police say
  • Lincoln man killed in one-vehicle crash in Cass County
  • Alberts on the radio: Many end zone bleacher seats to be widened at Memorial Stadium for 2022

Judge sentences 67-year-old Lincoln man to 45-50 years for molesting young girl

They alleged DHHS violated their contract by not giving union members proper notice, failing to negotiate the changes and implementing the new dress code in an “unreasonable manner.”

They said some employees who performed the same work at the same location and on the same shift were allowed to wear jeans, while others were not.

The grievance went to an arbitrator, Jim Nash, who ruled in favor of the  workers and directed HHS to reactivate its previous dress code, allowing jeans. 

In November 2020, HHS filed a petition asking a judge to vacate the award on the grounds that Nash had exceeded his powers.

And NAPE argued the award should be confirmed because he made his decision based directly on the terms of the labor contract.

In an order Wednesday, Otte said Nash hadn’t concluded that HHS’ revised dress code was “arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and unfair.” He concluded that the manner in which it was implemented was. 

Two Kearney residents arrested in connection with homicide

Nash said HHS was imposing different and more onerous standards on similarly situated employees. 

Otte found Nash’s conclusion a permissible interpretation of a contract requirement that the department establish or amend work rules “in a reasonable manner,” and that he hadn’t exceeded his authority.  

The judge said the department retains the right to establish any work rule, including dress code standards, even if the union and its members feel it is unreasonable or unfair.

The arbitration decision merely precludes the new dress code relative to jeans from being implemented as sought by HHS, Otte said.

“Accordingly, if a new dress code prohibits jeans, flip flops or shorts, the prohibition must be implemented reasonably,” he wrote.

Proposed sentencing, drug penalty changes show divide in Nebraska criminal justice hearing

On its website, NAPE called it a “major victory for union members” and told employees they could revert to following the 2017 dress code immediately.

“Should DHHS choose to change its dress code in the future requiring a more stringent dress requirement, our contract in Article 25.6 now requires that agencies negotiate with NAPE/AFSCME for a clothing stipend up to $250,” executive director Justin Hubly said.

HHS could still appeal the decision.

Lawsuit against Sarpy County over pepper ball injury during 2020 protest will proceed on two of four claims

Nebraska won’t issue new virus restrictions despite high hospitalizations