Companies can ban use of work email for union purposes (Members Only)

A recent National Labor Relations Board decision says businesses can ban workers from using company email for union and other organizing purposes, according to Bloomberg Law.

The 3-1 ruling in favor of Caesars Entertainment revokes a 2014 decision that granted the right to workers who have access to employers’ email systems for other reasons. It also overturns the 2014 Purple Communications Inc. ruling issued by a Democratic-majority board.

The decision allows employers to restrict use of their email and other information technology systems to certain purposes provided they do not target union-related communications and activity. There also is an exception for situations when there are no other reasonable means to communicate during nonwork time.

Worker advocacy groups and unions urged the NLRB to keep the 2014 policy because email has become a central, natural way for co-workers to organize and communicate.

The NLRB sided with Caesars Entertainment, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, which argued employers have property and First Amendment rights to limit the use of their own email systems. Additionally, they argued requiring access to email networks could cause workplace disruption and boost cybersecurity risks.

The NLRB said employees “do not have a statutory right to use employers’ email and other information-technology resources to engage in nonwork-related communications.” It followed that “employers have the right to control the use of their equipment, including their email and other IT systems, and they may lawfully exercise that right to restrict the uses to which those systems are put, provided that in doing so, they do not discriminate” against union-related communications.

Democratic NLRB member Lauren McFerran dissented, saying the decision undervalued employees’ rights under labor law, and the previous law was intended to fit the changing patterns of the work environment.

In the 2014 Purple Communications Inc. ruling, the NLRB said if an employer provides workers access to an email system for work functions, it is presumed employees have the right to use the system to discuss union activity or other work-related concerns. Companies could ban all nonwork use of email—rather than a specific ban on union-related use—if they could demonstrate circumstances justified a complete ban.

Date : Jan. 01, 0001


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