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N.J. District Court Issues Post-Janus Decision on WDEA

By on January 7, 2020 in Labor & Employment with 1 Comment

On May 18, 2018, the New Jersey Governor signed into law the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act (“WDEA”), which allows union employees to withdraw from the union and cease paying dues upon notice to the employer during the 10 days following each anniversary date of their employment. On June 27, 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus, holding that public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from non-consenting employees. On December 27, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey issued a decision in Thulen v. AFSCME regarding union members’ argument that the First Amendment gives such employees a right to withdraw from the union and cease paying dues at any time, without restriction.

Many of us have been hoping that the Court would issue a substantive decision on whether the “10-day” window under the WDEA is constitutional in light of Janus. Instead, the Court dismissed the case on the basis that the union members failed to state a valid claim of relief. Plaintiffs in this case were three building inspectors for the Township of Lakewood, New Jersey who were current or former members of the union. When they began their positions, they signed union dues authorization cards. They alleged that after Janus, they wished to cease paying union dues but were prohibited from doing because of the WDEA. They argued that the revocation requirements under the WDEA unconstitutionally restrict employees’ First Amendment rights.

In dismissing the Plaintiff’s claims, the Court emphasized that it previously held that Janus does not allow employees, who voluntarily signed union dues authorizations, to override fair and reasonable contractual commitments. Here, the Court found that the Plaintiffs failed to allege (1) any opt-out restrictions in their union dues authorization forms and (2) that they tried to withdraw from the union and had a request denied. As a result, Court could not find that the WDEA was enforced against Plaintiffs and dismissed the case.

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Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev

About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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There is 1 Brilliant Comment

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  1. Avatar Philip Magazzo says:

    NJ Rev Stat § 34:13A-5.15 (2018), Section 5.a seems to make membership in the negotiations unit mandatory under the stated conditions. Paragraph 5.c seems to make the time requirements negotiable. How does this section of the WDEA reconcile with the Janus decision?

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