NAPE/AFSCME member Shawn Paillot recently won a historic discrimination case after he was wrongfully terminated by the Department of Health and Human Services. When Shawn began facing trouble at work, he immediately called his union representative for assistance, and our union quickly went to work on his behalf to ensure the transgression was remedied.
Shawn was born with Spina Bifida and has used a wheelchair almost his entire life. He has worked for the State of Nebraska since 2018 in the Division of Developmental Disabilities.
Shawn conducts developmental disability assessments, a task that sometimes involves entering a person’s home. Because most homes are not wheelchair accessible, to accommodate his disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Shawn was allowed to do the assessments virtually—an accommodation that caused no additional burden to DHHS.
In early 2022, DHHS arbitrarily decided that every worker needed to perform both in-person and virtual assessments. DHHS attempted to terminate Shawn’s employment multiple times, alleging that he failed to perform the essential functions of his job because he could not maintain an in-person presence in the community. Other employees, however, were allowed to conduct virtual assessments.
In September 2022, DHHS claimed they were no longer able to accommodate Shawn’s disability and terminated his employment. Our union filed a grievance on his behalf, alleging not only that the termination was inappropriate, but that DHHS also discriminated against Shawn based on his disability. In other words, management applied the contract differently to Shawn than they would to another employee because of his disability.
The case wound its way through the grievance process, and ended in a full arbitration hearing. At hearing, Shawn’s supervisor admitted that the directive from her management team that everyone had to return to in-person work was arbitrary. DHHS could not give any reason why Shawn could not continue performing his assessments remotely as a reasonable accommodation.
The arbitrator found that DHHS did not accommodate Shawn’s disability, wrongfully terminated his employment, and ordered that he be reinstated with full back wages and benefits for the eight months that he was out of work.
When one of our union members is harmed, we stand behind them together. These discriminatory actions by DHHS management were particularly egregious, and Shawn was able to prevail because he had the support of thousands of his union brothers and sisters behind him. If you feel that you are facing a discriminatory environment, don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your options.