NLRB To Determine If Employees Have A Statutory Right To Use Employers' Email And Other Communications Systems For Union Activities


The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has invited the public to file amicus ("friend of the court") briefs by June 16, 2014 addressing whether employees have the statutory right to use employers’ email and other electronic communications systems for union and other concerted activities.  In 2007, the NLRB held that employers may establish policies prohibiting the use of their email systems by employees for all “non-job-related solicitations,” so long as the rules were equally enforced against union solicitations and other non-job-related solicitations.  In October 2013, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) dismissed a claim that Purple Communications’ policy prohibiting personal use of its electronic equipment and systems, including sending e-mail on behalf of “organizations or persons with no professional or business affiliation with the Company" and "sending uninvited email of a personal nature," violated federal labor law.  The NLRB’s General Counsel is appealing the ALJ’s decision to the NLRB, and he is arguing that employees have a statutory right to use their employer's electronic communications system for Section 7 activities, subject only to the employer's need to maintain production and discipline.  Of course, policies similar to Purple Communications’ policy are very common, and the NLRB’s ultimate decision will impact many employers.  We will keep you up to date on this significant issue.

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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.

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