Most disputes between employees, unions and employers are covered under either state or federal employment laws. However, a recent case shows that some employees may be able to assert a constitutional claim when they address a dispute.
According to a recent report, a college professor at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota is asserting a claim that a state law that requires her to pay union dues – even though she is not a member of a union – is unconstitutional because it violates her First Amendment rights. The report details how the professor’s claim is potentially bolstered by a recent and notable ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The professor sued not only the union, but also her employer, St. Cloud State University. She is a tenured professor and, even though she is not a member of the union, is required to submit to the union’s actions in union-employer negotiations with her employer. Her lawsuit claims that such representative is a constitutional violation. She wants a declaration from the court to that extent, as well as compensation for costs and attorney fees.
Not all employment violations may fit the fact pattern that may fit a legal path towards constitutional challenges, but this case is a good example of an employee taking a creative stance based on recent judicial opinions and precedent. When employees in Minnesota believe that their employee rights are being violated, or that their union representation is not getting the best results, a legal challenge may be necessary to hold those entities accountable.