On August 1, 2018, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) issued an invitation for interested parties to file briefs on whether the Board should change or overrule its 2014 decision in Purple Communications, Inc., 361 NLRB 1050. In that case, the Board ruled that employees who already have access to an employer’s e-mail system at work may use that e-mail system during non-working time for Section 7 communications. In other words, employees may send e-mails to their co-workers related to union organizing and concerted activities related to wages or other terms and conditions of employment via their company’s e-mail system.

The Purple Communications decision had overturned an earlier ruling in Register Guard, 351 NLRB 1110 (2007) which held that facially neutral employment policies restricting employees’ use of their employer’s e-mail system did not violate the National Labor Relations Act merely because the policies might have the effect of limiting the use of those systems for union-related communications. The Board is now considering a case that will permit it to reconsider the use of an employer’s e-mail system by employees for Section 7 purposes. In fact, the Board also seeks comments on the appropriate standard for the Board to evaluate policies that govern the use of other employer-owned computer resources, not just e-mail.

NLRB Chairman John Ring and NLRB members Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel issued the Notice and Invitation to File Briefs over the dissent of the other two Board members, Mark Gaston Pearce and Lauren McFerran. Those wishing to file an amicus brief must submit it on or before September 5, 2018.