National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Peter Robb is urging the board to reverse an Obama-era ruling allowing unions access to employer email systems.
An NLRB decision issued in 2014 had outlawed email system restrictions that a company called Purple Communications had imposed on its employees.
Robb argues that the decision needs to be reversed by the current Republican-dominated board for a “variety of legal and practical reasons.”
He asserts that the Purple Communications ruling contradicted decades of established precedent and “impermissibly created a right by employees to use employer-owned and -financed communication systems, even where employees possess a plethora of other means of communication.”
The NLRB general counsel also points out that the employees in Purple Communications had alternative methods of communication, including their personal cellphones.
Robb cited a Supreme Court decision in a different case earlier this year that had raised First Amendment concerns.
“Because the board, as a government entity, may not compel an employer to subsidize hostile speech by requiring the employer to pay for an email system to send, receive, and store speech with which it does not agree,” he writes.
In addition, Robb says the 2014 standard imposes significant burdens on employers, including lost productivity, threats to digital security, compromises to proprietary and confidential information, and increased costs of monitoring email systems – all rendered unnecessary because of the subsequent widespread use of smartphones.