Gov Signs Law Prohibiting Lawsuits for Pre-Janus Damages

Yesterday, the Governor signed SB 846 which protects unions and public employers against lawsuits seeking the payment of agency fees collected prior to the Janus decision.  (Click here for the SacBee article on this bill.) The law adds Government Code section 1159 which provides that it is a “complete defense” to such lawsuits if the fees were collected pursuant to state law – which they all were. According to the Legislature, public employees who paid agency fees prior to June 27, 2018—the date of the Janus decision—had no legitimate expectation of receiving that money under any available cause of action. Therefore unions and public employers have no obligation to refund fees taken before that date.

The law applies to all actions currently pending as well as any future actions. The Legislature also stated that the new law is clarifying of existing law rather than a change to it. Because the new law was part of a budget appropriations bill, it is intended to take effect immediately.

The impact of this bill remains to be seen.  All the lawsuits that have been filed so far have been filed in federal court and allege a violation of the U.S. Constitution. It’s unclear to me whether this bill would have any effect on those federal lawsuits.

[Note: The initial version of this post incorrectly referred to the bill as AB 846.  It’s SB 846.]

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