The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is considering reversing a 2007 decision on the use of company email systems to communicate about workplace conditions of employment. The ruling could have major implications for businesses and union organizers. It is important for companies to stay on top of regulatory changes that occur. A business law attorney in Texas can help companies ensure they are in compliance with state and federal rules and regulations.
New Ruling Could Make Union Organizing Easier
The 2007 ruling being considered by the NLRB stipulated that employees did not have the right to use company email systems to communicate with each other about improving working conditions or improving wages.
The prior decision is being reviewed after a union challenged the email rules of its companies, arguing the rules were too restrictive and in violation of employee rights the NLRB should be protecting. The email rules forbid employees from using company emails systems for any reason other than for business purposes. Employees are not permitted to use the email systems provided by the company to engage in activities on behalf of organizations that do not have a business affiliation with the company.
When the union representing the workers filed an email and election-related complaint against the company, an NLRB judge initially dismissed the allegations about the email rule, citing the 2007 NLRB decision as precedent. However, the union appealed to the NLRB's agency board. The board asked for public input in April about whether to overrule the 2007 decision and about the standards, if any, that should be set for restricting the use of email.
The company claims it restricts the use of email, prohibiting personal communications so the email does not become a distraction for workers. However, the union argues email has become an effective tool for employee communication - a digital form of "standing around the water cooler." If employees are permitted access to an email system, the union believes that the workers should be able to use it to talk about union-related efforts and work conditions with limited exceptions.
The Wall Street Journal reported it is not clear how a change to the 2007 rule would actually impact businesses. While some companies likely already permit the use of a company email system to communicate about union-related activities, it is likely that many more do not. A coalition of business groups who are opposed to changing the rule submitted a brief in the case arguing that there is "no justifiable basis for creating a new 'right of employees,' and arguing that doing so "would have a very harmful impact on employers."
The decision could affect the ability of unions to organize and the rights of employers to limit the use of company email systems. It is one of many regulatory decisions made by federal agencies that businesses need to be aware of.
Contact a business law attorney in Texas for help with your legal needs. Call Brewer & Prichard P.C. today at 800-445-8710 or visit http://www.bplaw.com to schedule a consultation. Serving Houston, Montrose, Galveston Island and surrounding areas.