District Court Rejects Former Union Member’s Attempt to Rely on Janus to Claw Back Membership Dues

On May 8, 2020, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Molina v. SEIU Local 668 granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all remaining claims in the lawsuit, concluding that the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, 138 S.Ct. 2448 (2018), does not apply to the relationship between a public employee union and its members.

The plaintiff in Molina contended that Janus entitled him to a refund of the union membership dues that he paid to SEIU Local 668 before resigning from the union, and that the union and the plaintiff’s former employer, defendant Lehigh County, had violated his due process rights by failing to establish adequate procedures for objecting to union membership.  The district court, however, held that the First Amendment principles set forth in Janus apply to individuals who are not union members, not voluntary union members like the plaintiff, and recognized that the plaintiff’s union membership agreement constituted a valid and enforceable contract between the union and the plaintiff.  The district court separately held that the plaintiff’s payment of union membership dues via payroll deduction did not involve the “state action” necessary to establish a federal civil rights claim, and that the plaintiff’s due process claim lacked merit.  In a prior July 2019 order, the district court had concluded that the plaintiff lacked standing to pursue his claims for prospective relief, and that his claim for a refund of money paid to the union after his resignation was moot.

Altshuler Berzon LLP represented union defendant SEIU Local 668 in the lawsuit.