NLRB Holds Workers Have Statutory Right to Use Employer’s E-Mail System to Organize
Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) held that workers have a statutory right to use their work e-mail to communicate about union organization, wages, working conditions, and other concerted activities during non-working time. The new ruling, Purple Communications, Inc. (361 NLRB No. 126), overturns the NLRB’s 2007 Register Guard decision. The decision focused on the key role that e-mail plays in the workplace as a means of communication.
There are limits to the NLRB’s holding. Specifically, employees may only use company e-mail for organizing purposes during non-working time, such as during breaks, meal periods, and before or after work. Also, this right only extends to employees who have access to company e-mail; employers are not required to give every employee email access. Lastly, special circumstances related to productivity or discipline may justify a complete ban on employee e-mail use for non-work purposes, but those situations will likely be uncommon.
Advice to Employers
Employers should review their e-mail policies for compliance with this new rule and talk to legal counsel about making revisions. Also, be very careful about disciplining employees for improper use of company email. Before imposing discipline the situation must be reviewed carefully.
Case: Purple Communications, Inc. and Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, Dec. 11, 2014, 361 NLRB No. 126.
New Rules Finalized to Speed Up Union Election Process
The NLRB finalized new procedures for union representation elections this week. The new rule takes effect April 14, 2015 and is designed to “streamline” the existing procedures. The principal effect of the new rules is to shorten the time between the filing of a petition and the actual election. It is estimated that under the new rules an employer will only have 10 to 21 days from the election petition to conduct a campaign before the election. The current average in recent years has been around 40 days. Additionally, voter lists that employers must provide will now require employee phone numbers and e-mail addresses in addition to the employees’ names and addressed.
Advice to Employers
No longer may non-union employers simply wait until receipt of an election petition to begin a campaign with the employees. Non-union employers who wish to remain union free are advised to conduct regular educational efforts to remind employees of the advantages of a union free workplace and to continually assess the need for increased educational efforts with their workforce.