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Nebraska Prison Employee’s Termination for Failed Urinalysis Reversed

The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed a district court’s holding that the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) violated a labor agreement when it fired a prison employee for failing a drug test.

NDCS contended in its appeal that the district court erred in its findings that (1) there was no evidence that John Ahmann’s use of marijuana posed a risk to prison safety or security, and (2) termination of employment exceeded the severity of the offense as a sanction.

The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s findings that Ahmann knowingly violated an article of a labor agreement through off-duty consumption of marijuana, which subjected him to NDCS disciplinary sanctions. NDCS policy, however, allowed for a progressive disciplinary approach, which had been used for similar infractions with other employees.

Ahmann had a “spotless” work record with commendations given, and there was no evidence that Ahmann’s off-duty actions affected his work obligations as a secretary. As this was his first offense and he had expressed a willingness to abstain from future use, the court concluded that the termination was excessive and Ahmann was entitled to lesser sanctions. See: Ahmann v. Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, Supreme Court of Nebraska, Case No. 278 Neb. 29; 767 N.W.2d 104.

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Related legal case

Ahmann v. Nebraska Department of Correctional Services