Carrie Mason-Draffen Newsday columnist Carrie Mason Draffen

Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.

DEAR CARRIE: I work for a Long Island school district. When I was hired as a permanent paraprofessional, I elected not to join the union. Still, I have been paying an “agency” fee of about $14 each biweekly pay period because I did not join the union. Is this legal?— Dues Due?

DEAR DUES: It’s legal, according to the Public Employment Relations Board, which enforces laws dealing with such matters. By law, the district has to deduct the money from your check and forward it to the union.

Here is an excerpt the agency provided from the state Public Employees Fair Employment Act, more commonly known as the Taylor Law, which details what unions representing public employees in New York legally can or cannot do:

“Every employee organization that has been recognized or certified as the exclusive representative of employees within a negotiating unit of other than state employees shall be entitled to have deducted from the wage or salary of employees of such negotiating unit who are not members of said employee organization the amount equivalent to the dues levied by such employee organization . . . ”

At the same time, the union must have provisions for reimbursing you portions of that money if it is used for activities only marginally related to your job.

“ . . . The foregoing provisions of this subdivision shall only be applicable in the case of an employee organization which has established and maintained a procedure providing for the refund to any employee demanding the return of any part of an agency shop-fee deduction which represents the employee’s pro rata share of expenditures by the organization in aid of activities or causes of a political or ideological nature only incidentally related to terms and conditions of employment.”

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DEAR CARRIE: My 79-year-old mother has worked for a residential facility for eight years. She has always been a hard-working and exemplary employee. About three weeks ago, new management at her facility removed her from her position as resident-services manager/head of housekeeping. She was given the choice either to stay on at her same salary or quit. She chose to stay because she needs the money and would find it difficult to land another job at her age.

Now, she feels bullied daily by management. She has gotten three write-ups in her new position for trivial things. Mom’s supervisor is fault-finding and provides no direction to help her correct mistakes. And Mom has inadequate tools for the job. It seems the supervisor and the director are going out of their way to make her job as difficult as possible so she will quit. And Mom fears being ineligible for unemployment benefits if she is fired. She is stressed to the point that she can’t sleep at night, has no appetite, has lost weight and is in tears multiple times during the day. She is active, sharp and loved by her co-workers and residents at the facility. What would you advise her to do? — Mom Harassed

DEAR MOM: You have described a classic case of age discrimination. An older, stellar employee suddenly becomes a slacker in the eyes of new management and she can do no right. If your mother can stand it, she should stick around as long as she wants to work. If they fire her, chances are she would qualify for unemployment benefits. Generally you can’t collect benefits if you quit or if you are fired for misconduct. This isn’t a case of misconduct but of mistreatment.

In addition to toughing it out, she should file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for age discrimination. At the very least, she will get some clarification on what she is experiencing at work. She can file a complaint at eeoc.gov or by calling 800-669-4000.