From the Workplace Report with Ancel Glink: NLRB Law Judge Affirms Employee Right to Use Employer Email
We are often asked by our clients whether they can adopt and enforce a workplace policy prohibiting employees from using their government email for personal activities. We've expressed concerns about a blanket prohibition on use of employer emails because such a policy could implicate certain employment protections, including protected concerted activities, particularly in light of past NLRB rulings and decisions, including one issued last month.
In this case, an NLRB administrative law judge struck down an employer rule that prohibited employees from using business email to “engage in activities on behalf of organizations.” The law judge said the prohibition was too broad and violated the National Labor Relations Act. Purple Communications Inc. and Communication Workers of America, 2015 WL 1169344 (N.L.R.B. Mar. 16, 2015). The employer had argued that allowing blanket use of emails by employees “on behalf of organizations” may introduce computer viruses to the system. The administrative law judge rejected that argument, stating that the employer's concerns could be addressed by software programs and rules more specifically targeted to downloading external content.
While Illinois Labor Boards have not yet adopted the new NLRB position on use of an employer’s email system, it is likely it would, should it be presented with a similar case. Employers should review their email policies to make sure their policies do not prohibit employee organizing rights. Also, care should be taken when disciplining an employee for violation of an existing email policy. That existing policy may now be considered invalid if it is a barrier to employees exercising rights under state labor laws.
Original post Authored by Steve Mahrt, Ancel Glink