Nebraska Association
of Public Employees

NDOT Member Reinstated After Wrongful Termination

NAPE/AFSCME member Brendan Patti was recently reinstated with full back pay and benefits after being fired from his position as a Mechanic at the Nebraska Department of Transportation in January 2023. 

Brendan started working for the NDOT in January 2022. In July, his superiors came to him just two days before his six-month probationary period was set to end and handed him a letter stating that they were extending his probation. The document, however, listed an incorrect extension date and did not contain specific performance improvement requirements. Brendan pointed this out, but his superiors didn’t reissue him a corrected letter until two days after his six-month probation ended.

NDOT fired Brendan two days before what would have been his one-year anniversary with the state. NDOT claimed that because his probation had been extended, he was not entitled to the due process rights that the union contract guarantees for tenured state employees. At that point, Brendan contacted his union representative and worked with NAPE to file a grievance.

Our union contract states that an employee is removed from initial probation the day following their six month anniversary unless the employee’s probation is extended in writing. If the initial probationary period is extended for performance reasons, the letter must specifically detail the concerns. NAPE argued that NDOT violated our union contract because Brendan’s probation ended when his superiors failed to give him an extension letter that complied with our contract before the six-month anniversary of his employment. 

The grievance proceeded all the way up to step three-–arbitration—after both NDOT and the Department of Administrative Services denied the grievance. 

An arbitrator held a hearing to decide whether or not Brendan was still on probation when he was fired. If he was, NDOT had every right to terminate his employment without due process. But if he wasn’t, which was what NAPE argued, he should have been entitled to due process and was therefore unjustly dismissed. 

The arbitrator ruled that Brendan was not given proper notice until after his probation ended, so he shouldn’t have been fired without due process. After the ruling, NDOT agreed to reinstate Brendan with back pay and benefits. If you receive a letter extending your initial probation, contact your union representative right away for advice. Strict time limits apply in order to protect your rights.

Nebraska Association of
Public Employees