On August 13, 2020, a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) officer sued both the Las Vegas Police Protective Association (PPA) union and the police department for extracting union dues from her paycheck in an illegal manner. The complaint was filed in the US District Court for the District of Nevada and alleges that PPA union officials and the LVMPD illegally infringed on the officer’s First Amendment rights established under the landmark 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys are providing legal assistance to the police officer.
In Janus, the High Court determined that forcing public sector workers to fund a union hierarchy as a condition of employment is a violation of the First Amendment. On top of that, the justices declared that union dues can only be taken from a public sector employee’s paycheck provided that the workers have an affirmative and knowing waiver of his or her First Amendment right not to pay union dues.
According to officer Melodie DePierro’s complaint, she started her employment with LVMPD in 2006 and joined the PPA union in a voluntary fashion at that time. In January 2020, she made her first attempt to exercise her Janus rights by sending letters to both union officials and LVMPD that she was withdrawing from the union. The letters explicitly called for an end to union dues being deducted from her paycheck. In her complaint, she claims that union and police department agents rejected the request, and did so again after she made the same demands in February 2020. Even as she filed her lawsuit, the union bosses are still deducting full union dues from her paycheck.
The Union bosses claimed that the monopoly bargaining contract between PPA and LVMPD only allowed employees to stop union dues deductions within an “impermissibly narrow escape period between October 1 and October 20 each year,” DePierro’s complaint read. Her lawsuit recounted that she “never signed any dues deduction authorization form agreeing to the restrictive escape period of 20 days” spelled out in the monopoly bargaining contract.
The complaint makes the case that the 20-day “escape period” that union officials and the police department imposed on DePierro “caused and continues to cause deduction of and collection of dues from DePierro, who does not consent to paying union dues” and details how this is “impermissible under Janus.” DePierro is pressing the US District Court to declare the “escape period” scheme unconstitutional, prohibit PPA and LVMPD from continuing to enforce it, and order PPA and LVMPD to send back all dues that were illegally withheld from DePierro’s pay since she tried to stop the deductions, in addition to the interest.
“Officer DePierro is working hard to keep Las Vegas safe during its reopening. Instead of respecting her First Amendment Janus rights, PPA union bosses have decided to keep imposing an unconstitutional policy on her just to keep her hard-earned money rolling into their coffers,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The High Court made perfectly clear in Janus that affirmative consent from employees is required for any dues deductions to occur. Yet PPA union bosses are clearly violating that standard here.”