Refund of Fair Share Fees Collected Before Janus Denied
The U.S. Supreme Court (Court) denied review of a petition for certiorari filed by a non-union teacher seeking a refund of fees her union had collected before the Court had declared such fees unconstitutional in its 2018 landmark Janus decision, effectively barring such claims.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court (Court) decided Mark Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al. (Janus), holding that public sector agency fee arrangements (a.k.a. “fair share fees”) unconstitutionally violate the First Amendment free speech rights of nonconsenting public-sector employees by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern. As a result, unions were no longer allowed to collect such fees from employees unless they opted in to pay union fees. Following the Janus decision, numerous lawsuits were filed by non-union public sector employees seeking refunds of fees that had been paid before Janus. One case involved Stacey Mooney (Plaintiff), a public-school teacher in Eureka Comm. Sch. Dist. #140 (District) who is not a member of the Illinois Education Association (IEA). From Plaintiff’s start of employment in the District until the Janus decision, the District had deducted fair share fees from Plaintiff’s paycheck and sent them to the IEA.
Plaintiff sued to recover these fees on behalf of herself and a putative class of similarly situated persons in federal district court, seeking restitution under Section 1983 of the U.S. Code (42 U.S.C. §1983). The district court for the Central District of Illinois dismissed her claim with prejudice on April 23, 2019. Plaintiff then appealed to the Seventh Circuit appellate court, which affirmed the district court’s judgment on November 5, 2019. In so doing, the Seventh Circuit noted that the district court’s decision “joined the consensus across the country concluding that unions that collected fair-share fees prior to Janus…are entitled to assert a good-faith defense to section 1983 liability.” Plaintiff then sought review by the Court, but her petition was denied. By declining to review Plaintiff’s claim, as well as other similar claims from across the nation, the Court has effectively barred claims for refunds of fair share fees collected before Janus.