Pennsylvania state employee files class-action lawsuit for refund of agency fees

On Aug. 7, Pennsylvania state employee Catherine Kioussis filed a class-action lawsuit against the Service Employees International Union Local 668 seeking restitution for agency fees paid to the union in 2017 and 2018.

Who are the parties to the suit?

Kioussis, the plaintiff, works for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. She is represented by the Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit public-interest law firm that represented Mark Janus in Janus v. AFSCME (2018). The defendant is the Service Employees International Union Local 668, which represents public- and private-sector social service workers at both the state and municipal levels of government. According to a federal disclosure report, SEIU Local 668 comprised 16,507 dues-paying members and 361 agency fee payers as of Dec. 31, 2018.

What’s at issue?

Kioussiss alleges “SEIU should have known that its seizure of [agency fees] from non-consenting employees likely violated the First Amendment.” Kioussiss seeks a refund of all agency fees she and other non-member employees paid to the union from Aug. 7, 2017, to June 27, 2018, the period permitted under Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations. According to the Liberty Justice Center, should the case be decided in Kioussiss’ favor, approximately 2,000 workers could receive as much as $1 million in restitution.

What are the reactions?

  • Brian Kelsey, an attorney with the Liberty Justice Center, said, “It’s unfortunate [Kioussiss’] constitutional rights were violated. We’re going to make sure she can get her money back now, or at least as much as we can gather that she paid over the last couple years.”
  • SEIU Local 669 President Steve Catanese said, “The Liberty Justice Center, along with other anti-union organizations such as the Fairness Center, is being funded by millions of dollars in dark money donations from billionaires and corporations. The sole purpose of these organizations and investments in them is to file frivolous litigation against labor unions and undermine the ability of workers to have a voice at the workplace.”

What comes next?

The case is pending before Judge John E. Jones III of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. President George W. Bush (R) appointed Jones in 2002. The case name and number are Kioussis v. Service Employees International Union Local 668, 1:19-cv-01367.

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