The Center Square

Ohio School Employee Sues to Stop Paying Union Dues

February 20, 2024

(The Center Square)—An Ohio public school employee sued the Ohio Association of Public School Employees on Tuesday, accusing the union of continuing to take dues from her paycheck after she quit the union.

The Liberty Justice Center, a Chicago-based nonprofit that challenges government overreach, educational freedom, free speech and other issues, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Denise Cogar, a 20-year union member who withdrew membership in 2022.

Cogar, employed by the Perry Local School District, withdrew her membership, and the union confirmed, stopping the dues withdrawal.

According to the lawsuit, the dues withdrawal started again four months later when the union said she missed its once-yearly opt-out window.

Cogar waited for the following year’s window and mailed another request to stop paying dues. The union rejected that request, saying it received her request one day before the window opened.

The lawsuit says the union waited until a day after the window closed before telling her she missed the window again.

“I was not a union member and didn’t pay union dues for four months. What makes the union think it now has grounds to start taking money from my paycheck without my consent? This is not just unfair—it’s unconstitutional,” Cogar said.

The lawsuit says the union’s actions violated Cogar’s First Amendment rights under the 2018 Supreme Court decision Janus v. AFSCME.

It says that because the union confirmed that she was a nonmember and informed the school district to stop withholding dues from her paychecks, the union was legally obligated to get her consent before withholding dues again.

“The Supreme Court in Janus held that union dues and fees cannot be withheld from an employee’s paycheck without the employee’s affirmative consent,” said Jeffrey Schwab, senior counsel at the Liberty Justice Center. “After the union acknowledged Denise’s withdrawal of membership, she never consented to withholding dues again. The union’s actions violated her First Amendment rights.”