Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Attorney General issues advisory; 

Public sector workers’ rights and employer obligations in wake of Janus ruling

In response to the June 27 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the Office of Attorney General Maura Healey issued an advisory regarding public sector workers’ rights and employer obligations.
Under the Janus decision, public sector unions may no longer charge agency fees to employees who are not union members, and public sector employers may no longer deduct agency fees from a nonmember’s wages without the clear and affirmative consent of the nonmember employee.
Municipalities are advised to consult with legal counsel to immediately stop payroll deductions for the non-union members of all bargaining units, and to notify the representatives of all bargaining units of the intention to comply with the Janus decision.
The attorney general’s advisory affirms the collective bargaining rights of public sector employees under Chapter 150E, explains the impact of the Janus decision on union dues and agency fees, and reminds readers of the procedures for access to union members and personal information in the public sector.

On June 27, 2018, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, (Janus decision). The following is a Question and Answer (Q&A) created by the Department of Labor Relations (DLR) in order to assist those affected by the decision. This Q&A reflects the state of the law as of the issuance of the Janus decision. The statements and opinions expressed below represent the best judgment of the DLR at the current time. Not all of the issues, however, are fully resolved yet. The materials below do not carry the force of law and are not meant to be a substitute for your own legal counsel’s advice. If you are unsure of your rights and obligations under the law or collective bargaining agreement, and or need further clarification regarding any of these answers, legal advice should be sought.
1. What does the Janus decision mean for public sector employees in Massachusetts?
The Janus decision makes it unlawful for public sector employers or unions to require that an employee who is not a voluntary dues paying union member to pay an agency fee to a union as a condition of obtaining employment or continued employment. This means that neither an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to such a payment. Under the Janus decision, agency shop arrangements contained in collective bargaining agreements are invalidated.
2. What is an agency fee?
An agency fee is a sum of money that an employee who chooses not to be a dues-paying member of a union pays to a union for activities related to the union’s obligations as collective bargaining representative, such as negotiating contracts and representing employees in grievances and arbitrations. Previously, under M.G.L. c. 150E, § 12, it was lawful to require payment of an agency fee as a condition of employment pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. Janus holds that agency fees may only be deducted from employees who affirmatively consent to pay them.