The NLRB could remove your right to control internal emails

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Union groups are on the cusp of influencing private employers’ email policies following an announcement by the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB is proposing a new rule that would stop employers from governing their own email system. If implemented, employees will have the right to use work email for union coordination and collective bargaining activity – and employers will have to provide an exception to ‘no personal use’ email policies.

Since 2007, it was clear that employers could dictate their own email systems after an NLRB ruling that “… employees have no statutory right to use the[ir] Employer’s e-mail system for Section 7 purposes.” Section 7, of course, referring to the part of the National Labor Relations Act that ensures employees can engage in “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection”.

However, a recent case has influenced the NLRB to consider overturning its 2007 decision. A union has filed suit against a company called Purple Communications, saying the company's no-personal-use email policy is unlawful because it restricts employees' rights to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment. After an administrative law judge struck down the case, citing the NLRB's 2007 decision, the union appealed to the NLRB - which agreed to revisit the 2007 decision and consider the case.

The board is inviting public comment to change its stance on work email. Employers – or anybody struck with an opinion – are invited to submit comments to the NLRB before June 16.

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