In January 2022, a Lancaster County District Court judge affirmed an arbitrator’s binding decision reinstating the October 2017 dress code as implemented for DHHS employees. Since that decision, NAPE negotiated new contract language that requires state agencies to negotiate a clothing stipend if they institute a more strict dress code for employees. But after the court decision and subsequent negotiations, some DHHS managers doubled down and stated that the dress code was business casual Monday through Thursday, with jeans only being allowed on Fridays. They did not negotiate this as required by our contract and the law.
NAPE Steward and DD Service Coordinator Ashlie Thompson recently changed office locations from the Gold’s Building to the State Office Building in Lincoln. In February, she received an email from her administrator stating that with the new office location, the dress code was changed to business casual Monday through Thursdays. Ashlie soon reached out to NAPE field staff, and a grievance was filed.
The grievance alleged that DHHS violated employees’ rights by failing to adhere to the district court order and that the agency failed to negotiate a clothing stipend when they changed the dress code to a higher standard. Soon after Ashlie’s grievance was filed, the director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities sent out an email clarifying that the dress code would actually be a “dress for your day” policy, with jeans allowed Monday through Friday if appropriate for that day’s work activities.
While DHHS filed an appeal of the district court’s order, the court order is valid unless or until that order is overturned. Employees must be allowed to adhere to the October 2017 dress code as originally implemented in their offices, including wearing jeans Monday through Friday if that was the case in 2017. In the alternative, DHHS is welcome to negotiate a clothing stipend in accordance with our new contract language. NAPE has additional pending grievances on this issue at other office locations. If you are experiencing different dress code enforcement at your workplace, reach out to a steward or contact us for assistance.