- What can the employer say to new hires about union membership?
- What can the employer tell current employees about their Janus rights?
- What if the payroll office does not possess a signed dues-deduction authorization?
- Does the Taylor Law give the union access to make a presentation to new employees at orientation?
- What should the employer do if someone asks to stop paying union dues?
1. What can the employer say to new hires about union membership?
Communication with new hires that is informative and not designed to interfere with or to coerce or discourage union membership or participation is permitted (see example). New hires are entitled to know that union membership is not required in order to gain public employment, that it is entirely the employee’s choice whether to join or not to join a union, and that whatever the choice, the employee cannot be discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment or other employment decisions (e.g. promotions, discipline, assignments, etc.). New employees are also entitled to know how much union dues are, how they will be paid and the frequency of payment. New employees can be told that they are always free to change their minds, and that if they later decide to cancel union membership, New York law says the union’s terms for cancellation as stated on the dues-deduction authorization will control the process. It would be advisable to inform them that a representative of the union will likely contact them.
2. What can the employer tell current employees about their Janus rights?
Employers may notify employees about the Janus ruling. A sample letter can be found here.
The employer should make it clear that joining the union and authorizing dues to be deducted from pay is not a condition of employment and that the terms and conditions of employment (wages, hours, vacation, holidays, personal and sick leave, health insurance, retirement system participation, etc.) for dues-paying members and non-members are the same within any given bargaining unit and title. It would be helpful for the employer to revise its employee manual to reflect this.
3. What if the payroll office does not possess a signed dues deduction authorization?
Even before Janus, General Municipal Law (GML) §93 required a valid written authorization before a municipal fiscal officer could deduct union dues or agency fee payments from an employee’s wages. CSL §208.1(b) also requires a signed dues-deduction authorization for union members, but allows alternate forms (such as e-mail) and provides that once one is received by the employer, the employer must commence withholding and transmittal to the union within 30 days.
CSL §208.3, which pertains to agency-fee payers, gave unions the right to agency-fee payments from non-union bargaining unit members without requiring authorization. This section has been invalidated by Janus. For any such employees, the employer should cease agency fee withholding on notice to both the employee and the employee organization.
4. Does the Taylor Law give the union access to make a presentation to new employees at orientation?
No. The law, as amended in 2018, gives the union the right to information about new hires’ names, addresses and work locations so that the union can contact new employees directly. The employer must provide this information within 30 days of the new hire or re-hire, promotion or transfer of an employee. The employer must also allow a union representative to meet with the new employee, on the employer’s premises, for a reasonable time, with no charge to the employee’s contractual leave time. However, arrangements for such meeting must be scheduled in consultation with a designated representative of the public employer. The employee should be advised of this.
Again, the employer can emphasize that the choice to join the union is entirely the employee’s and that the employer cannot and will not discriminate against the employee, regardless of the employee’s choice. The employer should also advise the employee that the law states that the union authorization document will dictate the procedure should the employee later decide to withdraw the authorization for union dues deduction.
5. What should the employer do if someone asks to stop paying union dues?
A request to withdraw union dues-deduction authorization should be treated seriously and carefully, beginning with date-stamping the request. In many cases, union membership cards explicitly say that consent may be withdrawn by notifying the public employer, in which case there is no question that the deductions must stop immediately.
GML §93 states that the authorizations will remain in effect in accordance with the provisions of CSL §208.1 which are: (1) until revoked in accordance with the terms stated in the authorization or (2) until the employee is no longer employed by the employer. This language, however, does not appear to be consistent with the holding in Janus, in which Justice Alito wrote, “neither an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”
While some union membership cards restrict the ability to withdraw dues-deduction authorization to certain time windows or restrictive processes, failing to immediately honor an employee’s request to stop dues deduction places the employer at risk of federal litigation.