In a recent decision, the United States National Labor Relations Board held that employees were permitted to utilize their employers’ email systems for union organization activities during non-work hours.
The issue in this case was whether employees had the right under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act to communicate with one another over their workplace email system regarding union organization. In a 2007 decision, the Board held that employees did not possess a statutory right to do so. However, the Board opted to revisit the matter, and overturned its earlier decision based on a determination that too much emphasis had been placed on protecting employers’ property rights in the 2007 decision.
The Board however, was careful to limit the scope of its decision. For example, the ruling only permits employees to use their work email for organization purposes during non-work hours. Further, employers could justify a ban on non-work email usage if they could demonstrate that it was necessary to maintain either workplace production or discipline.
This decision will be of interest to employers as unions in Canada could attempt to raise similar arguments.
Questions relating to the content of this article may be directed to Geoff Litherland.