The Liberty Justice Center Files New Case Challenging Forced Union Dues

February 20, 2024

On February 20, the Liberty Justice Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of an Ohio school district employee who quit her union in 2022—only to be told four months later that the union had begun taking dues from her paycheck again.

Denise Cogar joined the Ohio Association of Public School Employees over 20 years ago when she began working as a paraprofessional for an Ohio school district. When she chose to withdraw her membership in 2022, the union confirmed her withdrawal and informed the school district so it would stop withholding union dues from her paychecks. The school district, in turn, stopped withholding dues from her wages—briefly. Four months later, the union announced that it had made a mistake—because she had not made her request during the union’s once-yearly “opt-out window,” the union was going to start taking dues from her paychecks again.

After waiting months for the opt-out window to come around, Denise mailed the union another request to stop paying dues. This time, the union told her it would not stop withholding money from her paychecks because it had received her request in the mail one day before the window. The union waited to tell her this until after the opt-out window had closed—so Denise would have to wait another year to submit her request and, in the meantime, keep paying dues to a union she had quit long ago.

The Liberty Justice Center’s lawsuit argues that the union’s actions violated Ms. Cogar’s First Amendment rights under the 2018 Supreme Court decision Janus v. AFSCME. Because the union confirmed that she was a non-member and informed the school district to stop withholding dues from her paychecks, the union had a legal obligation to secure her “affirmative consent” before beginning to withhold dues 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,” said plaintiff Denise Cogar.

“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. 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,” said Jeffrey Schwab, Senior Counsel at the Liberty Justice Center.

The Liberty Justice Center’s case filings in Cogar v. Ohio Association of Public School Employees are available here.


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