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NLRB Decides Employees May Use Company E-mail for Union Organizing

Published:  December 29, 2014

The National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB” or the “Board”) trend of scrutiny of employee handbooks continues.  The NLRB recently issued a new decision that will significantly impact many employers’ policies or practices related to employee use of e-mail and computers.  This decision impacts both unionized and non-unionized workplaces.

Overruling years of precedent, in Purple Communications, Inc. v. Communications Workers of America, the NLRB found that employees must be permitted to use company e-mail to discuss unionizing and other terms and conditions of employment during nonworking time.  The good news is that this decision does not require an employer to provide employees access to the employer’s email network if they otherwise would not.  The Board opined that electronic communication is essentially the new “natural gathering place” for co-workers to share common interests about union organization and the terms and conditions of their employment.

Like many employers, Purple Communications, Inc.’s policy limited employee use of the company’s email system to “business purposes only.”  Consequently, employers with such policies or practices would be wise to revise their computer and electronic communications policies to comply with this decision. 

If you have any questions regarding your employment policies, please contact any of the attorneys at Royal LLP at (413) 586-2288.