School districts need to reconsider how payroll deductions for union dues and agency fees are handled in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31.
Before the court’s decision, unions were permitted to collect an “agency fee” from individual employees who were not part of the union. Unions could require non-union employees to pay a reasonable portion of the costs incurred when negotiating on their behalf over terms of employment, so long as the payment did not go towards political or ideological activities. The recent Supreme Court decision deemed this a violation of non-members’ First Amendment right because these employees are forced to support the positions their assigned union takes. This decision affects all public employee unions, including school districts.
How does this affect payroll? Disallowing districts to deduct agency fees from non-member wages without his/her consent poses a logistical challenge because the payroll department typically cannot distinguish union members from non-members. There are a few best practices your district can follow to comply with the recent Janus ruling:
- Review your collective bargaining agreements to ensure they do not contain wording referencing agency fees and follow the Civil Service Law as impacted by the recent Janus ruling.
- Ensure you obtain prior consent from employees to deduct union dues or fees and ensure that the consent/waiver is documented, signed by the employee, and retained in their personnel file.
Before making any decisions, it is highly encouraged that school districts consult their school attorney or contact NYSSBA’s legal department.
Joseph Miller, CPA
Joseph is a member of Cerini & Associates; audit staff where he works with our nonprofit and school district clients. Joseph has experience in internal claims auditing and external auditing, including financial statement audits and pension plan audits. Joseph’s knowledge and experience allow him to provide specific services including systems testing and analysis, internal and external audit functions, and claims audit functions.