NLRB Rethinking Stance on Employee Email Use

Board calls for briefs on whether to overturn Purple Communications — and how to address company systems besides email

The National Labor Relations Board now has another Obama-era decision in its crosshairs — this one dealing with restrictions that employers may lawfully impose on the use of the email systems they own.

In 2014, the NLRB determined it was unlawful for employers to ban their employees from using company email for non-work purposes, even in their off-time. The decision, Purple Communications, prompted employers — both unionized and not — to review their policies to ensure they weren’t running afoul of the Nation-al Labor Relations Act in the NLRB’s eyes.

But now the NLRB, which has a case before it that challenges the Purple Communications ruling, is asking for amicus briefs on whether it should shift its stance on workers’ rights to use work email under the NLRA. Management-side labor attorneys say it’s a sign the board is looking to overturn Purple Communications, which could allow employers to make their email use policies more restrictive again.

The NLRB announced Aug. 1 it is inviting briefs on whether it should adhere to, modify or overrule its precedent in Purple Communications. The board asks for amici input as it decides a case in which Caesars Entertainment Corporation is challenging the Purple Communications precedent.

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