On May 24, 2021, Governor Ricketts issued Executive Order 21-05, which ordered state code agencies to return to normal in-person operations immediately. This included directing state employees working from home to reduce workforce density due to the COVID-19 pandemic to return to offices in person.
Many agencies revised their “Remote Work” policies in response to the pandemic. Some agency policies are quite flexible, while others are particularly rigid. Before a new policy can take effect, it must be shared with NAPE seven days prior to its implementation.
Under Nebraska law, the state must meet with the union to negotiate “mandatory subjects of bargaining.” The Nebraska Supreme Court has determined that a mandatory subject of bargaining is any subject that is of fundamental, basic, or essential concern to an employee’s financial or personal concern involving working conditions.
NAPE sent a demand to bargain to the state’s chief negotiator on May 24, 2021. After working with the state’s chief negotiator regarding policy concerns over the summer months, NAPE asked for a formal response on whether the state would bargain with us over remote work policies. The state declined to do so, leaving our union to evaluate its options.
In order to challenge the state’s decision not to negotiate, NAPE would need to file a prohibited practice charge with the Nebraska Commission on Industrial Relations. The Commission would hold a hearing to determine if the law was violated, and then it would issue an order. Either party then has a right to appeal the Commission’s decision to the Nebraska Supreme Court.
The NAPE Board of Directors met to evaluate our options. Because the CIR process and potential appeal could drag on for more than a year, the Board decided that it was not worth our effort to challenge the decision at this time. Instead, we will enter contract negotiations in 2022, where we can make remote work policies a part of our negotiations platform if delegates to our 2022 bargaining conference determine they should be a priority.
In the meantime, employees who are currently working remotely and have an approved ADA accommodation, will continue to work under the terms of the approved accommodation. If you would like to work remotely, follow your agency policy to request a remote work assignment. Always make your request in writing.
If you have specific concerns or requests, e-mail your supervisor to make the request or seek clarification. If you aren’t sure what steps to take, contact NAPE. NAPE members have access to our professional staff to provide guidance and advice.