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Employee Stops Paying Union Dues on Religious Grounds, Files Suit

disputeAn employee stops paying union dues on religious grounds and files s suit against the employer

In states that allow union security (also called agency shop) agreements in the private sector, New York being one of them, workers who are not members of the union in their workplace are required at minimum to pay agency fees to the union to cover the costs of collective-bargaining, grievance adjustment, and contract administration (in other words, any service related to the terms and conditions of employment).

In turn, the union is required by law, under its duty of fair representation as the exclusive bargaining representative, to represent all workers equally in the bargaining unit, regardless of their union membership status. While full dues paid by union members can be used for both activities related to the terms and conditions of their employment, as well as political activities are undertaken by the union, agency fees cannot be used for political and ideological purposes.

While the agency shop was declared unconstitutional in the public sector by the Supreme Court in 2018, this ruling did not apply to the private sector. However, there may soon be a potential carve-out to the agency shop in the private sector. In Massachusetts, an agency shop state, a Muslim electrician requested a religious accommodation from his employer, Boston College, as well as his union for his sincerely-held belief not to pay union dues as required under the collective bargaining agreement, and asked that his dues instead be donated to one of several charities of his choice. Both the college and the union ignored his request.

In November 2019, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined that Boston College and the union were violating the electrician’s rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. While Boston College stopped deducting dues after the EEOC determination, that same month, the electrician filed suit in federal court seeking either a return of the dues already deducted, or a donation to charity.

If the electrician prevails on his religious discrimination claim, it will create a notable exception to the agency shop rule in states that allow such an arrangement.

If you feel that you are being discriminated against on the basis of your religion, retaliated against at work for engaging in union activity, or have any questions about proper union representation, please contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. immediately to schedule a consultation.

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