The National Labor Relations Board is re-examining a policy that provided unions with broad access to employer-held email communications with employees.
The board is seeking comments on whether it should change or overturn its 2014 decision allowing employees to use their company’s email system to send emails to their co-workers concerning union organizing and concerted activities regarding wages and working conditions.
The earlier Obama-era ruling applied to both union and non-union employers. In comments last December, NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb indicated that his office may seek to get various board precedents from the prior administration overturned, including the email decision.
The NLRB also is seeking public comments on the appropriate standard for evaluating policies governing the use of employer-owned computer resources other than email.
Perhaps in recognition that communication technology has clearly expanded beyond email, the NLRB also is soliciting input on what standard it should apply to other methods of employee communication on employer-owned equipment.
These include instant messages, text messages and social media postings. While the board previously limited its decisions regarding computer usage to employer email systems, it may intend to apply a consistent standard to all forms of workplace communication platforms.
If the prior decision is eventually overruled, the NLRB wants to know what standard should be adopted in its place, and whether a return to the pre-2014 standard would be the right move.
The two dissenting Democrat board members said the notice was inappropriate in light of the pending appeal of the 2014 decision in federal appeals court. They also said is there is no evidence showing the earlier policy created significant challenges for employers, employees, unions or the board.