Employees Can Use Company Email to Organize

Email-managementEmployees, now you can use your company's email to organize with other employees. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has reversed a decision from 2007. As long as the organizing activity is done on their own time or doesn't involve stopping their work, employees may send email to other employees in an effort to establish a union. 

The NLRB explained its turnaround: 

"By focusing too much on employers' property rights and too little on the importance of email as a means of workplace communication, the Board (in its earlier ruling) failed to adequately protect employees' rights...and abdicated its responsibility ‘to adapt the Act to the changing patterns of industrial life.'"

Although won by a narrow 3-2 margin, the ruling is considered a "great victory" for employees. Marshall B. Babson, counsel at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, questions the decision, saying, according to a Bloomberg report, that "the board's decision raises a 'very serious issue' about a 'compelled speech' violation of the First Amendment. The government should not be able to tell an employer that it has to allow use of its own systems to facilitate expression of a point of view that it does not share." 

Part of the decisions seems to hinge on employers' permitting email use for non-work communication. The board also said that email systems "are different in material respects from the types of workplace equipment the Board has considered in the past."

Image source. 

Discussion Starters: 

  • What's your view of the NLRB's decision? Consider both the prevalence of email and employers' interests. 
  • If you were the human resources director at a company, what, if anything, would you communicate about this ruling?