A school bus driver [Plaintiff] filed an action under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against two public-sector unions and her employer, the New Hartford Central School District [Respondents], alleging that their continued deduction of union fees from her paycheck following her resignation from both unions violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights citing Janus v. Am. Fed’n of State, Cnty., and Mun. Emps., Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018).
The United States District Court for the Northern District of New York dismissed Plaintiff's complaint and she appealed, contending that "the district court erred by prematurely dismissing her claims against the unions for, among other things, failing to adequately plead state action." The United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, disagreed, concluding that "because [Plaintiff] voluntarily became a union member and affirmatively agreed to pay union dues through payroll deductions for a set period, the district court properly dismissed her claims."
Plaintiff challenged the deduction of union dues from her paycheck after she resigned from the Unions in March 2021, alleging violation of her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights under color of Janus v. Am. Fed’n of State, Cnty., and Mun. Emps., Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448.
The Circuit Court opined that "The Supreme Court’s decision in Janus invalidated the collection of agency fees from non-union members but left intact “labor-relations systems exactly as they are.”
In the words of the Circuit Court, Plaintiff's claims against the Respondents fail because the District’s withholding of union dues did not constitute a violation of her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Circuit Court then affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff's action. The Circuit Court noted that in 2018, Plaintiff signed a union membership and dues deduction authorization form that, in relevant part, included the following provision:
I understand that this authorization and
assignment is not a condition of my employment and shall remain in effect, regardless
of whether I am or remain a member of the union, for a period of
one year from the date of this authorization and shall automatically
renew from year to year unless I revoke this authorization by sending a
written, signed notice of revocation via U.S. mail to the union
between the window period of Aug. 1-31 or another window period specified in a
collective bargaining agreement.*
Plaintiff resigned from the Unions. Plaintiff was then informed that "although she was no longer a member of the union, dues would continue to be deducted from her paychecks unless and until she sent a written and signed notice of revocation in the August 'window period,' as described in the Membership Agreement."
The School District continued to deduct union dues from Plaintiff’s paychecks "through at least May 28, 2021," but discontinued the deductions when plaintiff sent the required notice of revocation in August."
The Second Circuit said it joined "the growing list of our sister circuits and conclude that Janus does not relieve Appellant of her contractual duties to pay union dues under the Membership Agreement." It then noted that in Janus the Supreme Court "explicitly limited the reach of Janus by noting '[s]tates can keep their labor-relations systems exactly as they are—only they cannot force nonmembers to subsidize public-sector unions.'"
In the words of the Circuit Court, Plaintiff's "signing of the Membership Agreement constitutes an affirmative consent to pay dues. Accordingly, the facts of this case place it outside the scope of Janus."
* The Circuit Court's decision notes
that "Under the Taylor Law, such deduction authorizations remain in effect
until they are revoked by the individual employee 'in accordance with the terms of
the signed authorization.'" [See N.Y. Civ. Serv. Law §208(1)(b)(i).]
Click HERE to access the entire opinion of the Second Circuit posted on the Internet.