Second Circuit Rejects Post-Janus Attack on Public Sector Unions

On April 15, 2020, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Wholean v. CSEA SEIU Local 2001, et al. affirmed the dismissal of claims against a union representing Connecticut state workers in which the plaintiffs sought to claw back fair-share fees the union had lawfully charged them before the Supreme Court reversed long-standing precedent and held that such fees could no longer be charged in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31.  Altshuler Berzon LLP represented Local 2001, with partner Scott Kronland arguing the case in the Second Circuit.

Joining the unanimous judicial consensus on the issue, the court recognized that the union defendant’s good-faith reliance on state law barred the plaintiffs’ attempts to extract refunds of fair-share fees that they had paid under then-valid state law and binding Supreme Court precedent.  The Second Circuit joined the Seventh Circuit, Ninth Circuit, Sixth Circuit, and numerous district courts across the country that have all rejected materially indistinguishable claims brought against public sector unions in the wake of Janus.  Altshuler Berzon LLP has successfully defended the union defendants in many of those cases.  The Second Circuit’s opinion can be found here.

McDonald’s Workers File Sex Harassment Class Action Lawsuit

On April 10, 2020 Altshuler Berzon LLP, together with co-counsel and with the financial support of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund™, filed a civil rights and employment discrimination class action lawsuit against McDonald’s Corporation on behalf of women workers who work at corporate owned and operated McDonald’s restaurants in Florida.   The lawsuit accuses McDonald’s of failing to protect its employees from sexual harassment and from retaliation for reporting sexual harassment.  McDonald’s workers have for years been telling their stories of routine, severe sexual harassment and abuse, and this lawsuit alleges that McDonald’s has failed to take adequate action to address this endemic problem and protect its workers.  In the wake of the #MeToo movement, women, including two women workers in Florida, are standing up and demanding that McDonald’s take responsibility and end the toxic and hostile culture of harassment that they assert pervades its restaurants, including by providing adequate training and a safe and confidential reporting mechanism.  This lawsuit builds on Altshuler Berzon LLP’s prior work representing dozens of McDonald’s workers who filed sexual harassment charges with the EEOC, and a prospective class of women who worked at a McDonald’s restaurant in Michigan.

Altshuler Berzon LLP Updates on Covid-19-Related Developments

Altshuler Berzon LLP has been providing regular updates to clients regarding federal legislative responses to the Covid-19 public health crisis, with a focus on how the legislation affects unions and union members.  Recent updates are available here:

  • Information about Families First Coronavirus Act (March 23, 2020)
  • Information about then-proposed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act (March 26, 2020)
  • Updated Guidance and FAQs re Families First Coronavirus Act (March 27, 2020)
  • Options for Unions and Employers to Recover Payroll Costs under Federal Covid-19 Legislation (March 31, 2020)
  • Supplemental FAQs re Federal Covid-19 Legislation (March 31, 2020)

Please contact us with any questions about federal, state, or local legislation or regarding any other issues related to ongoing events.

Any new updates regarding the government’s legislative response to the health crisis will appear on this page.

Altshuler Berzon LLP Continues Its Winning Streak in Litigation Arising from the Supreme Court’s Decision in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31 (2018).

Durst v. Oregon

On March 31, 2020, the District of Oregon granted summary judgment in Durst v. Oregon Education Association, et al. to the Oregon Education Association and its affiliates represented by Altshuler Berzon LLP.  The court rejected the claims of three former union members that their First Amendment rights were violated when their employers deducted union membership dues that the plaintiffs themselves had agreed to pay in exchange for union membership rights and benefits.  The court recognized that its decision was consistent with every other federal court that has addressed similar post-Janus claims challenging voluntary union membership dues deductions, including in many other cases litigated by Altshuler Berzon LLP.  The decision can be found here.

Chambers v. AFSCME, et al.

On March 31, 2020, the District of Oregon granted summary judgment to the defendant unions in Chambers v. AFSCME, et al., rejecting the plaintiffs’ attempts to recover fair-share fees that they had paid to cover the costs of collective bargaining, in accordance with then-valid state law and binding Supreme Court precedent before the Supreme Court overturned that precedent in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31.  The plaintiffs in Chambers brought a putative class action against Oregon affiliates of AFSCME, SEIU, NEA, and other unions, seeking to assert claims on behalf of most public sector employees across the state of Oregon.  Altshuler Berzon LLP successfully defended the unions against plaintiffs’ federal and state tort law claims.  The district court’s order can be found here.  Altshuler Berzon LLP has also successfully defended many similar post-Janus lawsuits filed across the country.

Quirarte v. United Domestic Workers AFSCME Local 3930

On February 10, 2020, in Quirarte v. United Domestic Workers AFSCME Local 3930, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California granted judgment on the pleadings to the defendant government officials and union, ruling that the deduction of union dues from California home care providers’ paychecks did not violate the First Amendment, that no state action was involved in making those deductions, and that the plaintiffs could not assert a cause of action under the Medicaid Act.  The order can be found here.  The case is on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Altshuler Berzon LLP represents United Domestic Workers in the case.

Few v. UTLA et al.

On February 10, 2020, the United States District Court, in Few v. UTLA et al., granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims seeking to enjoin the California state laws governing the deduction of voluntary union dues from public employee union members and to recover damages premised on the plaintiff’s payment of voluntary dues prior to his resignation from his union.  The order can be found here.  Altshuler Berzon LLP represented defendant United Teachers Los Angeles in the district court proceedings.

Grossman v. Hawaii Government Employees Association/AFSCME Local 152

In Grossman v. Hawaii Government Employees Association/AFSCME Local 152, the District of Hawaii rejected multiple attacks on voluntary unionism for public sector workers in Hawaii based on the plaintiff’s radical misinterpretations of Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31.  On May 21, 2019, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s facial challenge to Hawaii’s system of exclusive representation for purposes of collective bargaining for public sector workers, finding that challenge squarely foreclosed by Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit precedent.  On January 31, 2020, the court granted summary judgment against the plaintiff’s remaining claim, in which the plaintiff sought a refund of dues that the plaintiff had voluntarily agreed to pay as a union member in exchange for the rights and privileges of union membership that she received.  The orders can be found here and here.  The union defendants were represented by Altshuler Berzon LLP.

Hendrickson v. AFSCME Council 18 (D.N.M.)

In Hendrickson v. AFSCME Council 18, the District of New Mexico granted the Union’s and State of New Mexico’s motions for summary judgment.  On January 22, 2020, the court ruled that a union membership agreement that required an employee who chose to become a union member to pay dues for a renewable one-year period was enforceable, rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that the agreement violated his First Amendment rights.  The court also rejected the plaintiff’s challenge to exclusive union representation as established by New Mexico’s public employee collective bargaining law.  The order can be found here.  The union defendant was represented by Altshuler Berzon LLP.

Altshuler Berzon LLP Congratulates Stephen Berzon for 2020 Peggy Browning Award

Stephen Berzon speaks at the reception.

Founding partner Stephen Berzon was the recipient of a 2020 Peggy Browning Fund Award for his work on behalf of labor unions and working people and in service of economic justice.  The firm congratulates Stephen, along with his fellow deserving awardees at the San Francisco awards reception: Roxanne Sanchez, Senior Advisor to the Service Employees International Union; Jason Rabinowitz, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 2010 and Director, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Public Services Division; and the United Domestic Workers of America.

Awardees and presenters.

The Peggy Browning Fund is a nonprofit organization established in memory of Margaret A. Browning, a prominent labor attorney and member of the National Labor Relations Board.  The Fund’s mission is to educate and inspire the next generation of law students to become advocates for workplace justice.

The Hon. Marsha S. Berzon speaks at the reception.