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NLRB reverses course and holds employers can control emails

In a reversal of its Purple Communications decision, the NLRB held that employers can maintain sole control over their email and computer systems. Employers need not allow workers much less third parties like unions access to their email systems to, for example, further union organizing, collective bargaining, grievance administration or other non-work purposes.

(E)mployees have no statutory right to use employer equipment, including IT resources,

Employers are reminded this decision leaves in tact the Board’s longstanding exception for “those rare cases where an employer’s email system furnishes the only reasonable means for employees to communicate with one another.” For example, where employees are geographically dispersed and have no means, other than corporate email, to communicate. With regard to that exception, the Board elaborated only to say the following:

Because, in the typical workplace, employees do have adequate avenues of communication that do not infringe on employer property rights in employer-provided equipment, we expect such cases to be rare. We shall not here attempt to define the scope of this exception but shall leave it to be fleshed out on a case-by-case basis.

Source:  Caesar’s Entertainment, Inc., 368 NLRB No. 143 (12/17/19).

Want to read about the NLRB’s upcoming ruling on emails?

The NLRB is currently considering whether and how to reverse Purple Communications, the decision that presumptively permitted employees access to company email systems for use in unionizing efforts. Read my comments in this great article on Colorado Law Week.