Employers Can Restrict Union Use of Company E-mail

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that employers can prohibit employees from using company e-mail to send union-related messages while allowing some personal use of e-mail.

In a 3-2 decision dated December 16 but released December 21, the NLRB majority ruled that the e-mail policy of Eugene, Oregon, newspaper The Register-Guard wasn’t a violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The company’s written policy prohibited the use of e-mail for “non-job-related solicitations.” But in practice, it allowed a number of nonwork-related employee e-mails. There was no evidence, however, that it permitted e-mails urging support for groups or organizations.

The company issued two written warnings to an employee who was president of the Newspaper Guild union’s unit at The Register-Guard after she sent e-mails to employees about union activities and urging support for the union.

The NLRB majority adopted the reasoning of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, noting that in two cases involving the use of employer bulletin boards, the court had distinguished between personal nonwork-related postings such as for-sale notices and wedding announcements and “group” or “organizational” postings such as union materials.