December 15, 2014

NLRB Overturns Precedent; Rules Employees Can Use Work Email For Union Organizing.

In a 3-2 decision, the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) ruled last Thursday that employees are allowed to use the email account given to them by their employer for union-related activities and organizing during non-working time. The decision overturns a 2007 ruling that barred this practice. 

In a statement, Coalition for the Democratic Workplace (CDW) Chairman Geoffrey Burr said the “decision is an attack on property rights and injects uncertainty into business communications systems” and that it “will cause confusion in important programs such as harassment prevention.” (MSCI is a member of the CDW.) 

The NLRB’s decision also leaves several questions unanswered. As The Wall Street Journal explained, it is still unclear whether employees can use their company email to communicate about employee organizing with third parties, specifically the unions themselves. The ruling also didn’t answer questions about what constitutes nonworking time. The Journal notes “The board’s majority wasn’t specific about the definition of nonworking time, saying in the ruling that, ‘by definition, no expectation of employee productivity’ occurs during such time.” 

In other NLRB news: the U.S. Senate last week confirmed Laura McFerran to be a member of the board. McFerran, a U.S. Senate Democratic policy aide until her appointment to the NLRB, will take her seat this week. To learn more about the NLRB’s effort to expand its reach over labor and employment law, we encourage you to read this series from Inside Counsel