NAPE member Cindy Drake, has been a librarian at the State Historical Society (History Nebraska) for over 43 years. Throughout her lengthy career, Cindy has always done her job with pride as she preserves our history for all Nebraskans. In early 2020, a book was sent to History Nebraska by a citizen so that it could be included in the History Nebraska collection. Cindy took the book home to read and review it, and ended up being disciplined with a written warning for allegedly violating the agency’s collections policy.
Cindy contacted NAPE for assistance immediately, and a grievance was filed on her behalf challenging the disciplinary action. History Nebraska argued that Cindy violated its Collections Policy because she took the book home. History Nebraska further argued that Cindy was negligent and improperly used state property.
While employees may be disciplined for violating agency policy, the agency must prove that a violation occurred. If the agency cannot prove a violation, there is no just cause for discipline.
In Cindy’s case, the donated book was not made part of the permanent collection and was therefore not state property. Also, since the book was not part of the collection, it was impossible for Cindy to have violated the History Nebraska Collections Policy.
The agency and DAS Employee Relations upheld the grievance, and NAPE appealed the case to binding arbitration. During the arbitration hearing, there was no dispute that the donated book was not part of HN’s permanent collection, and there was no evidence offered to support the claim that the book was state property. The arbitrator agreed with NAPE’s argument that there was no just cause for discipline because there was no policy violation, and the Arbitrator ordered the written warning to be vacated and removed from Cindy’s personnel file.
If you find yourself in a situation that may lead to disciplinary action, be sure to contact us right away for advice on how to proceed. NAPE members have access to our professional staff, and legal costs associated with the grievance process are covered in full for NAPE members. Had Cindy not had union representation, it would have been difficult to protect against this wrongful discipline.