Home Care Workers Sue for Reimbursement of Union Fees in Wake of Janus

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the landmark Janus v. AFSCME case is beginning to have ripple effects throughout the home care industry.

Last month, the United State’s highest court ruled 5-4 that public employees do not have to pay union fees to help cover the costs of collective bargaining by union groups on their behalf. The decision, which overturned a four-decades-old precedent, is widely seen as financially devastating to unions.

Some groups are now starting to ponder retrospective lawsuits in the wake of Janus that seek to reimburse workers for the union fees they were legally obligated to pay in the past, however begrudgingly. They include the Washington-based Freedom Foundation, which last week filed a lawsuit seeking class-action status for home care workers who provided service under Medicaid during the past four years, the Associated Press reported.

Unlike other public workers throughout the country, the Washington home care workers were able to opt out of paying union fees.

Even so, the state failed to honor requests from those who did, according to the Freedom Foundation.

The think tank’s lawsuit seeking reimbursement for Washington home care workers claims that the state automatically collects more than 3% of workers’ pay and transfers it to SEIU 775.

Illinois home care workers seek reimbursement

In similar news, as many as 80,000 Illinois home care workers may also get another attempt at recovering tens of millions of dollars in union fees in light of the landmark Janus decision, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Supreme Court recently ordered the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision last year in a case looking at whether Medicaid-paid home care workers should be able to recover money taken by the state for “fair share” union fees between 2008 and 2014.

If so, as much as $32 million could be on the hook, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The 80,000 workers were employed by individuals in the state-administered Home Services Program, which provides services to Illinoisans with severe disabilities so they can remain in their homes and be as independent as possible.

Illinois’ Home Services Program includes personal assistant and homemaker services to eligible individuals under the age of 60 who need help with daily living activities. The program also offers adult day care, respite services, meal deliveries and electronic home health services.

Illinois stopped taking mandatory union fees from workers in 2014 when the Supreme Court ruled that home care workers cannot be forced to financially support a union they did not wish to join, largely due to the complex employment relationship between the person receiving care and the person providing it.

The ruling followed a lawsuit filed by personal care assistant Pamela Harris against former Gov. Pat Quinn and a branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

In many ways, the 2014 ruling was a precursor to the recent Janus decision, experts say.

Written by Robert Holly

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Robert Holly
When Robert's not covering the latest in home health care news, you can likely find him rooting for the White Sox or roaming his neighborhood streets playing Pokemon Go. Before joining HHCN, Robert covered everything from big agribusiness to the hottest tech startups. 

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