The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, November/December 2021 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.
Union officials covertly began seizing full dues after Janus decision, refuse to return money
CLEVELAND, OH – Cuyahoga County probation officer Kimberlee Warren is suing the Fraternal Order of Police Ohio Labor Council (FOP) union, charging union officials with breaching her First Amendment right as a public employee to refuse to support union activities. She is receiving free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
Foundation staff attorneys contend that FOP union officials ignored her constitutional rights recognized in the Foundation-won 2018 Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision. In Janus, the Justices declared it a First Amendment violation to force any public sector employee to pay union dues or fees as a condition of keeping his or her job. The Court also ruled that public employers and unions cannot take union dues or fees from a public sector employee unless they obtain that employee’s affirmative consent.
Warren was not an FOP union member, even before the Janus decision. However, her federal lawsuit details that astoundingly union officials furtively opted her into formal membership and full dues deductions from her paycheck after the Janus decision was issued, an event which should have prompted union officials to cease seizing all money from her.
FOP Union Bosses Brazenly Increased Forced-Dues Deductions After Janus
FOP union chiefs continued these surreptitious deductions until December 2020, Warren’s lawsuit notes, when she notified union officials that they were violating her First Amendment rights by taking the money and demanded that the union stop the coerced deductions and return all money that they had taken from her paycheck since the Janus decision.
When the deductions ended, FOP chiefs refused to give back the money that they had already seized from Warren in violation of her First Amendment rights. They claimed the deductions had appeared on her check stub and thus any responsibility to end the deductions fell on her — even though to her knowledge they had never obtained permission to opt her into membership or to take cash from her paycheck to begin with.
According to the lawsuit, Warren also asked FOP bosses to provide any dues deduction authorization document she might have signed. FOP officials rebuffed this request as well.
Union bosses were authorized by state law before the Janus ruling to seize from non-member workers’ paychecks only the part of dues they claim go toward “representational” activities. FOP union officials took this amount from Warren prior to Janus. However, their forcing her into membership afterward means they started taking full dues from her wages, even more money than they did before Janus despite the complete lack of consent.
Warren’s lawsuit seeks the return of all dues that FOP union officials garnished from her paycheck since the Janus decision was handed down.
Probation Officer Seeks Punitive Damages for Unchecked Janus Abuses
Her lawsuit also seeks punitive damages because FOP showed “reckless, callous” indifference toward her First Amendment rights by snubbing her refund requests.
“All over the country, union officials are stopping at nothing to ensure they can continue ignoring workers’ First Amendment Janus rights and continue siphoning money from the paychecks of dissenting employees,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “After Janus was handed down, FOP union officials in Warren’s workplace could have asked her to support the union voluntarily, but instead, tellingly, they began surreptitiously siphoning full dues out of her paycheck without her consent in direct contravention of the Supreme Court’s ruling.”