Judge sides with Nebraska HHS employees in dress code fight

January 28, 2022 GMT

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — It’s casual Friday every day now for Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services workers after a judge’s ruling sided with employees who argued that jeans shouldn’t just be allowed on Fridays.

A judge earlier this week upheld an arbitrator’s decision that sided with employees who complained after the department changed the agency’s dress code in 2019 to require business attire and ban jeans on all workdays except for Friday, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

More than 200 members of the state’s public employees union filed a grievance challenging the change, saying some employees who performed the same work at the same location and on the same shift were allowed to wear jeans, while others were not.


In 2020, an arbitrator ordered the agency to revert to the previous dress code, saying HHS was wrongly imposing different standards on similarly situated employees. The agency then filed a petition asking a judge to vacate that order.

But Lancaster County District Judge Robert Otte this week found that the arbitrator hadn’t concluded that the agency’s revised dress code was “arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and unfair,” but that the way the new code was implemented was.

The department retains the right to establish a dress code, the judge said, but it must be “implemented reasonably.”

Nebraska Association of Public Employees Executive Director Justin Hubly pointed to employee contract language that says if the agency requires a more stringent dress code, it must negotiate with the union for a clothing stipend of up to $250.