New Legislation Significantly Expands Union Rights After Janus Decision and Impacts Disclosure of Certain Employee Information

On December 20, 2019, Governor Pritzker signed into law Public Act 101-620, which places extensive new legal obligations and prohibitions on public employers in Illinois, including school districts and special education cooperatives. This law became effective immediately upon the Governor’s signature. The law was an initiative of the IFT in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 from 2018 that declared fair share fees unconstitutional, and it amends the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (“IELRA”) and the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) in important ways with regard to the disclosure of public employees’ personal information, dues deductions, access to employees, and other collective bargaining rights. While we are providing a summary of the law’s sweeping changes below, districts will need to review the new IELRA provisions with their labor counsel carefully and will need to pay attention to this law when responding to requests for certain employee information.

Required Disclosures of Employees’ Personal Information to Unions

Public employers now are required to provide union representatives, within 10 calendar days of the beginning of the school term and every 30 calendar days thereafter[1], an Excel file (or other editable digital file) containing the following information concerning each employee in the bargaining unit they represent:

  • Employee name;
  • Title;
  • Worksite location;
  • Home address;
  • Work phone number;
  • Identification number, if available;
  • Any home and personal cellular phone numbers on file with the employer;
  • Date of hire;
  • Work email address; and
  • Any personal email address on file with the employer.

A public employer also is required to provide union representatives, within 10 calendar days from the date of hire of a bargaining unit employee, the following information concerning the new employee:

  • Employee’s name;
  • Title;
  • Worksite location;
  • Home address;
  • Work phone number;
  • Any home and personal cellular phone numbers on file with the employer;
  • Date of hire;
  • Work email address; and
  • Any personal email address on file with the employer.

New Notice Requirements to Unions/Employees of Requests for Employees’ Personal Information

Under the new law, public employers are now prohibited from disclosing to anyone other than the union, except in narrow circumstances, the following personal information:

  • An employee’s home address (including zip code and county);
  • Date of birth;
  • Home and personal phone number;
  • Personal email address;
  • Union dues deduction or union membership information; or
  • Emails between the union and its members.

This same information is now exempt under FOIA. In addition, as soon as an employer receives any request asking for this personal information, it must forward the request to the union (or to the employee if no union exists). The employer also must provide the union or employee with a copy of its response within 5 business days after sending it. If the employer discloses any personal information that is prohibited, the union or employee may file an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board or file a lawsuit in the circuit court.

New Guarantees on Union Access to Employees on Employer’s Premises

The new law requires public employers to provide union representatives reasonable access to employees in bargaining units they represent, as long as the access does not impede normal operations. Although employers already may be providing union representatives with access to employees, the legislation specifically defines access to include the following:

  • During the work day, a union representative may meet with an employee(s) at work to investigate and discuss grievances and workplace-related complaints without loss of pay or leave time of employees or union representatives (this may mean that employees could be called out of class for such meetings, though this arguably “impedes normal operations” and therefore could be prohibited);
  • During lunch and other non-working breaks and before and after the workday, union representatives may conduct meetings at work to discuss collective bargaining negotiations, the administration of collective bargaining agreements, other matters related to the duties of the union, and internal union matters without loss of pay or leave time of employees or union representatives;
  • A union representative is allowed to meet with newly hired employees for up to one hour during the work day within the first two weeks of employment, or at a later mutually agreed-upon date; and
  • A union has the right to use an employer’s mailboxes and bulletin boards to communicate with employees regarding collective bargaining negotiations, the administration of the collective bargaining agreement, the investigation of grievances, other workplace-related complaints and issues, and internal union matters. Unions and employers can agree to greater access to unions, including access to the employer’s email system, in their collective bargaining agreements.

New Union Dues/Payroll Authorization Provisions

The new legislation also provides unions greater authority over membership and dues deductions. Now, if an employee wishes to authorize, revoke, change, or cancel dues authorization, the employee must submit their request to the union, unless otherwise mutually agreed upon by the public employer and union. Dues deduction authorizations may be written or provided electronically, and deductions must commence no later than thirty (30) days after the public employer receives notice of the authorization. Additionally, unless otherwise agreed to, deductions must be transmitted to the union no later than ten (10) days after they are deducted. While on any type of involuntary or voluntary leave of absence, a public employer is not required to deduct dues.

Employees and the union also may now agree to reasonable limits on the right to revoke dues deduction authorizations, including a period of irrevocability that exceeds one year. An employee’s authorization may automatically renew each year, as long as there is a 10-day window during which the employee may revoke authorization. An employer’s failure to comply with the new dues legislation is a ULP. The law also provides that public employers cannot interfere with, restrain, coerce, deter, or discourage employees and applicants from becoming or remaining union members or authorizing dues deductions.

New Email System Policies

The new legislation now makes it a ULP if a public employer intentionally permits an outside third party to use the public employer’s email or other communication systems to engage in conduct that would interfere with, restrain, coerce, deter, or discourage employees or applicants from becoming union members, authorizing representation by an employee organization, or authorizing dues or fee deductions. However, an employer may defend a charge if, in good faith, it implemented a policy to block the use of its email or other communication systems for such purposes. We recommend you consult with your labor counsel about potential constitutional challenges by third parties prior to implementing any new policy or blocking any senders.

The new law also reaffirmed that any dues or fair share fees deducted prior to the Janus decision were in compliance with the law.

[1] Other public employers have a different timeline but also are required to provide employees’ personal information to union representatives upon request, so long as it is not more often than once per payroll period.

 

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