Thursday, September 5, 2019

Ohio Court to Examine Union’s Janus Workaround

As most employers know, one way that public-sector unions are shoring up membership in the wake of the Janus decision is to restrict members’ ability to withdraw from the union. Many if not all of the public employee unions have adopted membership rules that allow an employee/member to withdraw from the union during only a short window of time each year, generally around the anniversary of their signing a dues deduction card. Often this window of opportunity is not only short but so difficult to comply with that most employees either are unaware of the window or unable to comply with the rules.

For instance, one public-sector union in Illinois was requiring members who wish to withdraw from the union to serve their notice not only within a short period of time around the anniversary of joining, but also were required to serve the notice in person at the union’s offices. Unfortunately for the employee/member, the offices had very limited hours, making it very difficult for employees, who are generally at work during the union office hours, to personally serve their notice. In summary, some unions have put in place rules that if done by an employer, might have caused the union to go to the picket line.

A group of employees in Ohio recently filed a lawsuit challenging the restrictions on withdrawal from union membership. They argue that the Janus decision makes clear that public workers’ financial support of unions must be completely voluntary. Restricting the time in which a public employee can withdraw from membership, they argue, infringes on their right to be free of forced union membership.

A district court in California also addressed this issue recently, dismissing a similar lawsuit on the grounds that Janus applied only to the relationship between a union and nonmembers, not members who were looking for a way out.

This issue may also end up in the Supreme Court one day. In the meantime, employers should note that they are free to inform their employees of the likely restrictions on resigning from the union.