Nebraska Association
of Public Employees

DHHS Dress Code Legal Victory!

In December 2019, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services unilaterally changed its dress code by, among other things, banning denim jeans Monday-Thursday. Over 200 NAPE/AFSCME members filed a grievance alleging that DHHS violated our contract by not giving proper notice, failing to negotiate over a mandatory subject of bargaining, and implementing the new dress code in an unreasonable manner.

In February 2020, NAPE won the grievance in binding arbitration. In late 2020, DHHS filed a lawsuit attempting to overturn the Arbitrator’s binding decision. After years of litigation, Lancaster County District Court Judge Robert Otte issued an order on January 26, 2022 that upheld the arbitrator’s decision, giving NAPE members at all state agencies a major victory. The judge’s order affirms our union member’s rights and the state’s duty under the law to negotiate over mandatory subjects of bargaining.

Judge Otte rejected each of the DHHS arguments. The judge found that the arbitrator issued proper findings of facts and conclusions of law as required by our contract, the arbitrator did not exceed his powers under the contract or the Nebraska Uniform Arbitration Act, and DHHS did not meet its burden of proof. You can read the judge’s order by clicking here.

The court order requires DHHS to abide by the arbitrator’s decision, which reinstates the 2017 DHHS dress code, which may be viewed here. 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.  

Employees can revert to following the 2017 dress code immediately. If a supervisor states otherwise, please contact us at for advice and assistance. Should DHHS decide to appeal the District Court’s order to the Court of Appeals, the District Court’s order will still remain valid unless, or until, the Court of Appeals orders otherwise. 

This is a major victory for union members. Even though the legal battle was long, NAPE members never quit! When union members unite together, we win! As we launch our 2022 negotiations campaign in February, “Growing Stronger Together for a Better Contract” we hope you will attend a local or virtual meeting to learn more about our plans to negotiate the best contract in history. If you are not yet a NAPE member, please join us today

Nebraska Association of
Public Employees