NLRB Reverses Precedent in Case Involving Employer Email

In a landmark ruling, the National Labor Relations Board determined that workers have the right to use their company email for non-business purposes. These purposes could include communicating about union events and organization. This ruling was a direct contradiction and reversal to the NLRB’s 2007 Register Guard ruling and even referenced that ruling, calling it “clearly incorrect.” 

The case involved a challenge against an email policy held by Purple Communications Inc., a sign language interpretation services organization. However, the NLRB was sure to explain that the decision was, in its words, “carefully limited.” The decision applies only to workers who are given access to a company email system, and that businesses may have the ability to issue a ban on non work-related use for their email systems if there are special circumstances in place that would make it necessary to institute such a ban. 

This ruling was a divided decision, as was the Register Guard ruling in 2007, but it is perhaps a more groundbreaking case in that it reverses a long-held precedent. The ruling handed down in 2007 put too much emphasis on the property rights of employers, according to the NLRB. The board also noted that the 2007 ruling failed to realize the full importance email can have in engaging in communications and activities protected under national labor laws. 

So what does this decision mean for the average worker? For one, it means you cannot be punished, in most circumstances, for the personal use of company email. However, it also has a wider-reaching result in that people attempting to organize to take some sort of union action will not be unfairly punished for their communication. 

For more information on what this ruling means, consult the knowledgeable Dallas attorneys at Whistleblower Law for Managers.