Harris v. Quinn

PETITIONER: Pamela Harris, Ellen Bronfeld, Carole Gulo, Michelle Harris, Wendy Partridge, Theresa Riffey, Stephanie Yencer-Price, Susan Watts, and Patricia Withers
RESPONDENT: Pat Quinn, in his official capacity as governor of the State of Illinois, SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana, SEIU Local 73, and AFSCME Council 31
LOCATION: Illinois Department of Health and Human Services

DOCKET NO.: 11-681
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)

CITATION: 573 US (2014)
GRANTED: Oct 01, 2013
ARGUED: Jan 21, 2014
DECIDED: Jun 30, 2014

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. -
Paul M. Smith - on behalf of the respondents
William L. Messenger - on behalf of the petitioners

Facts of the case

Pamela J. Harris is a personal care assistant who provides in-home care to disabled participants in the Home Services Program administered by a division of the Illinois Department of Human Services (Disabilities Program). The state pays the wages of assistants who work with participants in either the Disabilities Program or a program run by the Division of Rehabilitation Services (Rehabilitation Program). In 2003, a majority of the Rehabilitation Program personal assistants elected Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois & Indiana as their collective bargaining representative. The union and the state negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that included a "fair share" provision, which required all personal assistants who are not union members to pay a proportionate share of the costs of the collective bargaining process and contract administration. The Disabilities Program assistants rejected union membership in 2009.

In 2010, Harris and other personal assistants from both programs sued Governor Pat Quinn and the unions and claimed that the fair share fees violated their freedom of speech and freedom of association rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The appellate court held that the state may require its employees, including personal assistants such as the plaintiffs, to pay fair share fees and further held that the claims of the Disability Program were not ripe for judicial review.


Does the fair share provision in the collective bargaining agreement between the state of Illinois and the union representative violate the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association of personal assistants who are not members of the union?

Are the claims of the Disability Program plaintiffs ripe for judicial review?

Media for Harris v. Quinn

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 21, 2014 in Harris v. Quinn

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 30, 2014 in Harris v. Quinn

Justice Alito has the opinion of the Court in our remaining two cases this morning.

The first case is Harris v. Quinn No. 11-681.

This case concerns the First Amendment rights of individuals who were called personal assistants under an Illinois Medicaid Program.

Specifically, the issue is whether the State of Illinois can force these personal assistants to pay money to a labor union that they do not wish to support.

To explain how we resolved this question, I will start by explaining some of the details of this particular Illinois program.

In Illinois and throughout the country, there are many people who, due to age, illness or injury, are unable to live in their own homes without assistance and/or unable to afford the expense of in-home care.

In order to prevent these individuals from having to enter a nursing home or other facility, the federal Medicaid program funds state-run programs that provide in-home services to these individuals.

Forty-eight states have established such programs and one of these is Illinois, which has set up what it calls the Rehabilitation Program.

Under this program, with one exception that I will get to, the person receiving the care who is called the customer is recognized as the employer of the personal assistant, the person who is providing the in-home care.

The Illinois regulations state explicitly that the customer “shall be the employer of the personal assistant.”

A personal assistant is defined as “an individual employed by the customer to provide in-home care.”

Another regulation says that the State “shall not have control or input in the employment relationship between the customer and the personal assistant.”

Because of this setup, the customer has almost complete control over the employment relationship.

Consider the question of hiring.

State regulations established some very basic job qualifications.

For example, a personal assistant must have a Social Security number, must be able to communicate with the customer and if the personal assistant is between the ages of 16 and 18, must be enrolled in -- in school.

There are some others, but otherwise, the customers can do -- can hire almost anybody they want.

Customers have complete control over the day-to-day supervision of personal assistants and customers also have unqualified discretion to fire their personal assistants.

If for example a customer is unhappy because the personal assistant does not have the same taste in daytime T.V. shows, the customer can discharge the personal assistant.

What about the State's role?

The State handles funding which consists of a mix of federal and state funds, the state sets the threshold of job requirements to which I referred, a state official must approve the document called a Service Plan that sets out the basic services that each customer will receive and the State assists customers in a few other ways, and that is about it.

As a result of the scheme, the Illinois State Labor Relations Board ruled that a union could not represent the personal assistants for the purpose of bargaining with the State, because the State was not the assistants' employer.

That changed in 2003 when Governor Rod Blagojevich took office.

Governor Blagojevich issued an executive order declaring that the personal assistants were state employees for the purpose of engaging in collective bargaining with the State.

And the state legislature then codified that order.

The new law deems the personal assistants to be public employees but solely for the purposes of coverage under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act.

That's a quote from the law.

And the legislature -- legislature was careful to specify that the personal assistants are not state employees for any other purpose.

So, if a personal assistant commits a tort while on the job let's say a personal assistant steals from a customer or abuses the customer, the State has no liability.

Personal assistants are also not entitled to the pension or health benefits provided for full-fledged state employees as well as a host of other benefits that are detailed in our opinion.