In an unusual move, the National Labor Relations Board reached decision on some allegations of unfair labor practices in Purple Communications, Inc., but deferred any decision on the issue that had everyone's attention: whether an employer ban on any non-business use of the employer's email system interferes with employees' Section 7 rights and violates Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act. The Board has been considering whether to overrule its 2007 decision in Register Guard, which upheld such bans. The Board's General Counsel has argued that Register Guard should be overruled, and the Board in April 2014 had requested input on the issue from the parties in the case and others. Consistent with the Register Guard decision, employers typically argue that they have the right to control their email systems, provided that they do not discriminate against employees who engage in protected concerted activity. In contrast, labor advocates argue that that employees should have access to the employer's email systems, just as they in some circumstances have access to employers' physical facilities. The Board panel still plans to revisit Register Guard but severed that issue from the rest of the Purple Communications case. Employers should not be holding their breath for a favorable decision from the current Board majority.
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NLRB delays decision on whether employers may restrict use of their email networks
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