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WASHINGTON, DC December 17, 2014– This week the National Labor Relations Board issued a long-awaited decision on the use of company email in organizing drives. They reversed a previous NLRB decision, and now say that employees may use company email accounts to help organize their co-workers– as long as the emails aren’t sent on company time.
In 2007, the Bush NLRB ruled that employees cannot use company email accounts in organizing drives, but the Obama NLRB has now decided that the way workers communicate has changed enough to reverse the previous ruling, and that “the use of email as a common form of workplace communication has expanded dramatically in recent years.”
The NLRB decision goes on to state:
Consistent with the purposes and policies of the [A]ct our obligation to accommodate the competing rights of employers and employees, we decide today that employee use of email for statutorily protected communications on nonworking time must presumptively be permitted by employers who have chosen to give employees access to their email systems.
The board also cited a 2008 Pew Research Center survey which reported that 96 percent of workers used the Internet and email to remain connected to their jobs:
There is little dispute that email has become a critical means of communication, about both work-related and other issues, in a wide range of employment settings.
Bernie Lunzer, a vice president for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which filed the case in 2012, said the ruling was: “A big victory for workers in general.”
CWA pursued the case after Purple Communications in Rocklin, Calif., refused to allow workers to use company email accounts in a union organizing drive.
This ruling only applies to private-sector workers.
The NLRB is an independent federal agency established to protect workers’ rights to organize, and police unfair labor practices.