[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The National Labor Relations Board’s deadline to submit briefs in Purple Communications, Inc. is June 16, 2014, signaling the Board’s decision on whether employers must permit employees to use workplace email for purposes of union organization may not be far away.
In Register Guard, a decision issued under the Bush administration in 2007, the Board held employees have no statutory right to utilize employer owned email to engage in activity protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, including the right to form or assist a union in organizing an employer’s employees. Faced with an employment policy that prohibited employees from using electronic systems or equipment for non-work purposes, in Purple Communications, Inc., the Administrative Law Judge applied Register Guard and held the employer could lawfully limit the use of its email systems in that manner. Shortly thereafter, the Board decided to review the ruling and posted a notice soliciting comments regarding issues presented in the case.
Should the NLRB reverse the ALJ’s decision in Purple Communications and overturn Register Guard, unions may be allowed to utilize employer provided email systems to advocate unionism. Given that many employers currently prohibit this type of use through employment policies, such a decision would likely require that employers revaluate and revise employment policies limiting email use.
In recent years, the Board has proposed regulations to expedite union elections, proposed posting rules, overturned long-standing legal precedent to the benefit of unions, and increased scrutiny of employment policies to the detriment of union and non-union employers alike. Given this climate, the Board’s reversal of Register Guard would not be surprising. Employers are encouraged to monitor the Board’s decision in Purple Communications, and be prepared to reevaluate impacted employment policies should the Board overturn Register Guard.
If you have any questions as to how these legal developments might impact your business, please contact any member of the KDDK Labor and Employment Law Practice Team.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]