Coming to Your Workplace Soon? Union Organizing Efforts Via the Company’s Email System

by Foley & Lardner LLP
Contact

In late 2007, the Bush-era National Labor Relations Board issued what has since simply become known as the Register Guard decision. In that decision, a divided Board (along political lines) held that employees have no specific legal right to use their employer’s email system for nonbusiness purposes (for example, to elicit support for union representation). At the time, and since, Register Guard has been viewed as a watershed decision recognizing an employer’s right to control its email system in a manner so as not to allow it to be subverted for union organizing efforts.

However, the dissent in Register Guard argued, among other things, that email use in the workplace is so prevalent in today’s business world that it is little different than face-to-face communication. As such, just as an employer cannot prohibit individual solicitation of union support during a break or on personal time, an employer should not be able to prevent an employee from using its email system to facilitate that process.

With the new, now fully constituted Board, it has been widely expected that many of the Bush-era determinations may be in jeopardy because the Board has increasingly become a highly political creature. Board member terms are five years in length, and are staggered so that each President has the ability to nominate and place Board members during his term. In addition, it has long been recognized that the majority of the Board will be of the same political persuasion as the sitting President – presently the Democratic Party. And now, with the Board constituted solely by Obama Administration appointees, it appears likely that Register Guard is about to fall.

On April 30, 2014, the Board issued a Notice and Invitation to File Briefs in a matter known as Purple Communications, Inc. Typically when the Board solicits such submissions, it signals its intend to overturn a prior decision. In fact, here, the invitation itself specifically asks submissions to address the request to overrule Register Guard and adopt a rule wherein employees who are permitted to use their employer’s email for work purposes have the right to use the email system for organizing efforts, subject only to the need to maintain production and discipline.

According to the union’s counsel involved in Purple Communications, the union will argue that if an employer has an email system, employees have the right to use it for organizing activities so long as it is done on personal, non-work time. And, taking this one step further, the union will also argue that if employees are allowed to use their employer’s email system for personal purposes during work time, then they may also use the system for organizing efforts and union communication during work time; that is, there should be no restrictions on how the email system is used.

Purple Communications has the likelihood to be the most significant decision issued by the Board this year; especially since it is widely expected that it will serve as the vehicle to overturn Register Guard. And, when that happens, employer email systems will likely become the most important tool in the union organizing tool chest.

View This Blog

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Foley & Lardner LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Foley & Lardner LLP
Contact
more
less

Foley & Lardner LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.