Union officials violated civil servants’ First Amendment rights under the Supreme Court’s Janus decision by deducting unauthorized forced fees
Concord, NH (January 18, 2019) – New Hampshire state workers filed a class action lawsuit in federal court with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys stating that union officials violated their constitutional rights by forcing them to pay unauthorized union fees as a condition of employment.
State employees Patrick Doughty and Randy Severance are suing the State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire (SEIU Local 1984) in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.
The employees are asking the court to order union officials to refund the fees seized from their wages and those of countless other New Hampshire public employees who were subjected to the same unconstitutional mandatory union payments.
For years, the state forcibly deducted union fees from the two employees’ paychecks at the behest of union officials, even though neither was a member of SEIU Local 1984, nor had they agreed to pay any union fees. The lawsuit seeks refunds of all forced fees seized by the union going back at least three years as New Hampshire’s statute of limitations permits.
Taking union fees from Doughty and Severance without their explicit authorization violated their First Amendment rights, according to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, a case argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys in 2018. The High Court ruled in Janus that coercing civil servants into financially subsidizing a union violates their rights to free speech and free association.
The ruling also made it clear that before union officials can collect any dues or fees from them, public employees must affirmatively opt in for such payments and must knowingly waive their First Amendment right not to pay. The Supreme Court’s Janus ruling also observed that public sector unions have been “on notice” since at least the 2012 Knox v. SEIU decision – also argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys – that forced union fees were likely incompatible with the First Amendment.
“For years, New Hampshire union bosses violated the First Amendment rights of the very public employees they claimed to represent,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Just as a bank robber caught red-handed would never be allowed to keep the proceeds of such criminal behavior, union officials must also return the money they’ve pilfered from the paychecks of hundreds of thousands of workers across the country in violation of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.