Nebraska Association
of Public Employees

Supreme Court to Hear DHHS Dress Code Case November 2

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, the District Court of Lancaster County issued an order on January 26, 2022 that upheld the arbitrator’s decision, giving NAPE members at all state agencies a major victory. The order affirmed our union member’s rights and the state’s duty under the law to negotiate over mandatory subjects of bargaining.

The District Court 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 District Court order by clicking here.

After the District Court issued its order, DHHS appealed the decision. The case was initially placed on the docket for the Court of Appeals, but the case was advanced to the Supreme Court’s docket. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on November 2 at 9am. The Supreme Court assigned the case to its High School Oral Argument Series to help raise awareness and civic education for high school students. The Supreme Court will hear the oral argument in the auditorium at Nebraska City High School in Nebraska City (141 Steinhart Park Rd).

The oral argument is open to the public. More information is available here. NAPE/AFSCME members who plan to attend the oral argument in person in Nebraska City are invited to wear their finest denim. NAPE/AFSCME will hold a short press conference at the conclusion of the Court’s docket.

When the Supreme Court issues its decision, nearly four years of litigation will come to an end. While the case is no longer about the dress code, NAPE/AFSCME will continue to vigorously stand up for all state employees’ rights under both the State Employees Collective Bargaining Act and the Uniform Arbitration Act.

Nebraska Association of
Public Employees