Class action lawsuit challenges a NJ law that blocks workers from exercising First Amendment rights outside 10 day “window period”
Trenton, New Jersey (November 5, 2018) – Two New Jersey public school teachers have filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Township of Ocean Education Association (TOEA), New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and the National Education Association (NEA) unions, with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
Teachers Susan G. Fischer and Jeanette Speck, for themselves and potentially thousands of other teachers across the state, are asking the U.S. District Court for New Jersey to order NJEA union officials to refund illegally-seized union dues taken from teachers without their consent and in violation of their First Amendment rights as protected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Janus v. AFSCME.
In Janus, which was argued and won by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, the High Court ruled it unconstitutional to require public employees to subsidize a labor union. The Court further held that any union dues or fees taken without a public employee’s affirmative consent violates the employee’s First Amendment rights.
As the complaint details, union officials refused to allow Fischer and Speck to stop payment of union dues when they resigned their membership in July 2018. Township officials said the teachers could only stop payments and withdraw their membership during an annual 10-day window period based on a newly passed New Jersey state law.
In May, New Jersey legislators enacted a law to limit workers from exercising their rights under Janus except during the annual 10-day window. At the time Janus was pending a decision at the Supreme Court. The teachers’ class action suit argues that the New Jersey law is unconstitutional and must be struck down.
The teachers also seek a refund of membership dues forcibly taken after they resigned their union membership, as well as for all other public employees who attempted to resign following Janus. The lawsuit is similar to several other cases around the country pursued by public employees with assistance from Foundation staff attorneys following the Janus ruling.
For example, in two ongoing lawsuits, Pennsylvania school bus driver Michael Mayer and California court worker Mark Smith each filed federal complaints after union officials blocked their attempts to exercise their rights under Janus.
“Contrary to the wishes of New Jersey union bosses and their allies in the state legislature, First Amendments rights cannot be limited to just 10 days out of the year,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “The Foundation-won Janus decision at the Supreme Court recognized that all civil servants may exercise their rights to free speech and free association by resigning their union membership and cutting off union payments whenever they choose. Despite the ongoing resistance by union officials to the rights of the workers they claim to represent, Foundation staff attorneys remain committed to enforcing the constitutional rights of Susan, Jeanette, and millions of other public sector workers guaranteed by Janus.”
To inform workers of their legal rights under Janus, and ensure they know they can turn to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for free legal aid if union officials attempt to obstruct them from exercising those rights, the Foundation launched a special website: MyJanusRights.org.
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.