Government Jobs: 5 Things Every Employee Should Know About Their Rights

If you work for a government entity – a public school district, city hall, state agency or other public sector workplace – you have a right to decide whether you want to join a union. This is an important, and deeply personal decision for anyone who takes a government job. Before deciding if union membership is right for you, it is important to know what’s at stake and what rights you have.

  1. If you work in the government, you have the right to join – or not join – a union.

    Almost all government workplaces have unions, and in many cases these unions have been in place for decades. It’s up to you to decide if you want to join the union and pay union membership dues.

    In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case called Janus v. AFSCME that government workers are not required to pay union dues or fees to keep their job. This means that anyone can work for the government without being a union member or paying union dues, and their benefits and employment status are not affected. No one can pressure you to join a union and your job is not at stake if you choose not to join or pay dues to a union.

  2. Your employer should inform you of your options.

    New hire orientation and on-boarding includes a lot of information – it can be overwhelming! You have decisions to make about retirement benefits, health insurance… and union membership. Your employer – that is, the government body that you work for – should inform you of your right to join or not join a union, and pay or not pay dues to a union, at the time you are hired. If you started working for the government after June 27, 2018 and were not informed of your right to refrain from union membership, then your Janus rights may have been violated.

  3. The government must get your permission to deduct union dues or fees from your paycheck.

    Under the Supreme Court’s ruling, “employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them.” This means that no union dues or fees can be deducted from your paycheck unless you have given your clear and explicit permission to both your employer and the union. Even if you signed a union card or joined the union prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 27, 2018, you have the right to halt union dues deductions and resign union membership.

  4. If you are not a union member, you do not have to pay anything to the union at your workplace.

    The Janus decision says only union members can be charged union dues. If you are not a union member, no union fees or dues should be deducted from your paycheck. If you paid fair share fees before June 27, 2018, you may be eligible for a refund. Contact us to find out if you may be eligible for a refund.

  5. Employer-provided benefits are not tied to your union membership status.

    A common concern among workers is that they will lose government employee benefits such as health insurance and retirement if they decide not to be part of the union. This is not true. Any benefits offered to employees by your employer – the government entity that issues your paychecks – are available to you regardless of your union membership status.

Working in the government or taking a government job can be overwhelming – especially for those entering the public sector for the first time! Knowing your union membership rights is an important first step to making the decisions that are best for you. If you believe your rights have been violated in any way or you feel coerced to join a government union, contact the Liberty Justice Center. We may be able to help.