On April 30, 2014, the NLRB signaled it may overturn a 2007 Bush-Board decision, Register Guard, that generally allows employers to prohibit employees from using work e-mail systems for non-business purposes, including union organizing purposes. In a pending case in California involving allegations against employer Purple Communications, Inc., an Administrative Law Judge noted the NLRB’s decision in Register Guard and ruled Purple Communications did not violate the NLRA by having a policy that prohibited employees from using its electronic equipment and email systems for any non-business purpose. The NLRB General Counsel and the Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO have appealed the Administrative Law Judge’s decision, however, and are seeking to have the Register Guard decision overruled. The General Counsel and CWA specifically want the NLRB to adopt a rule that allows employees who are permitted to use their employer’s email for work purposes to use it for “Section 7 activity” (i.e., union organizing) as well, “subject only to the need to maintain production and discipline.”
The NLRB has invited the parties and interested amici to file briefs related to the issue by June 13, 2014. This decision has potentially far reaching effects not only on union organizing tactics, but on many employer e-mail policies currently in place that have blanket prohibitions on employees’ use of e-mail for non-business purposes. Stay tuned to the blog to keep abreast of developments regarding this important case.
A copy of the NLRB’s invitation to file briefs in the case can be found here.