December 11, 2014

A “sweeping new” NLRB ruling has significantly limited how employers may control employee use of employer-owned email systems. In Purple Communications, Inc., 361 NLRB No. 126 (Dec. 11, 2014), a three-member majority of the Board overturned the Bush-era precedent that previously held “employees have no statutory right to use the[ir] Employer’s e-mail system for Section 7 purposes.” Register Guard, 351 NLRB 1110 (2007). According to the NLRB’s new ruling, employees who have access to company-owned email systems do have the right to use such resources for the full spectrum of Section 7 concerted activities for mutual aid or protection, unless the employer can point to special circumstances justifying a ban on such use. Protected concerted activities include not only traditional union organization, but also discussing wages and other terms and conditions of employment with coworkers, unions, or attorneys. In light of the Purple Communications ruling, employers should carefully review all policies restricting employee use of company-owned email systems and communications devices.

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