The National Labor Relations Board ruled Thursday that employees can use their employer's email systems for union organizing communications during nonwork hours.
The decision, in a case involving Purple Communications, applies to employees who already had been granted access to their employer's email systems. Also, the board said an employer could impose a total ban on nonwork use of email if they demonstrate such a ban is necessary for productivity or discipline.
The ruling overturns a 2007 decision by the NLRB, which Republicans controlled the NLRB. The current Democratic majority said that decision was "clearly incorrect" and focused "too much on employer's property rights and too little on the importance of email as a means of workplace communication."
The new ruling will have "a huge impact," said Charles Caulkins, a labor attorney who is a partner at Fisher & Phillips' Fort Lauderdale, Fla.., office. It gives unions another advantage in their organizing efforts, opens the door for employees to send emails criticizing their employers to clients and vendors, and generally clog up companies' email systems with messages that don't have anything to do with business, Caulkins said.
Many businesses may decide to adopt policies against nonwork use of company email, he said.
The ruling "could cause employers to really minimize the use of email communications in their business if this case doesn't get overturned" in...
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