Non-member Employees Have Privacy Right to Object to Disclosure of Personal Information To Labor Union

In a key ruling that will impact employee organizations as they seek to recruit non-member employees within represented bargaining units, the California Supreme Court of appeal has ruled that non-members have a privacy right in thier personal contact information, but that when a labor union seeks access to that data, the union also has a legitimate interest in obtaining it. The key issue is:  what procedure should be followed?

The case involved Los Angeles county employees who are non union members. The union in question was Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721, which has a statutory duty to represent all members of the bargaining unit, regardless of whether they are union members or not.  Non members are, however, required to pay a “service fee” to the union, but they are not required to actually join the union.

The union sought the names, home addresses and home telephone numbers of non members so the union could communicate regarding job related matters, as well as for the purpose of collecting the service fee.

The issue was not really whether the union was entitled to the information – the trial court’s ruling to that affect was not disturbed on appeal. The issue what the procedure to be used, and the court held that it really was a question that should be subject to collective bargaining between the union and the employer.

The case is County of Los Angeles v. Los Angeles Employee Relations Commission, 56 Cal.4th 905 (2013).

Our firm regularly advises clients about workplace issues, including privacy matters. Feel free to contact us if you have a legal question in this area.

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