The National Labor Relations Board ruled today that workers are not entitled to use company email for organizing.
The decision in Caesars Entertainment reverses an Obama-era decision in Purple Communications, which said workers have the presumptive right to use company email for non-work purposes. The board’s decision effectively reinstates a 2007 George W. Bush-era Register-Guard decision that gave bosses the authority to restrict employee use of their email system.
“Employees do not have a statutory right to use employers’ email and other information-technology (IT) resources to engage in non-work-related communications,” the board’s Republican majority said in a written statement. “Rather, employers have the right to control the use of their equipment, including their email and other IT systems, and they may lawfully exercise that right to restrict the uses to which those systems are put, provided that in doing so, they do not discriminate against the union or other protected concerted communications.“
Democratic member Lauren McFerran, whose term expired Monday, said the decision impedes workers’ organizing rights.
“The majority’s decision aims to turn back the clock on the ability of employees to communicate with each other at work, for purposes that the National Labor Relations Act protects,” McFerran wrote.
The National Labor Relations Board ruled today that employers may bar employees from discussing internal investigations.
The board’s decision in Apogee Retail LLC overturns a 2015 decision in Banner Estrella Medical Center, which said employees have the right to discuss workplace investigations unless management can prove that doing so would harm the integrity of their efforts.
In a statement, the board said the Obama-era decision “improperly placed the burden on the employer to determine whether its interests in preserving the integrity of an investigation outweighed employee Section 7 rights, contrary to both Supreme Court and Board precedent.“
Democratic member Lauren McFerran, whose term expired Monday, wrote that the decision will help employers cover up misconduct.
“The majority now permits American employers to hold gag rules over their workers if the rule is linked to an open investigation of workplace misconduct,” McFerran wrote. “The likely chilling effect on workers — who will feel compelled to choose safe silence over risky speech — is both obvious and alarming.“
The NLRB said today it will change more than a dozen processes in advance of union elections — an effort aimed at making the process more efficient, the board’s Republican majority said, but one that Democrats argue will bog down the process for workers trying to organize.
The changes repeal core parts of the Obama-era ‘quickie’ election rule that sought to boost unions’ organizing leverage. In a final rule posted on the Federal Register, the NLRB said it generally will require disputes over the scope of a bargaining unit and voter eligibility to be litigated at pre-election hearings, reversing an Obama-era requirement for businesses to postpone virtually all litigation until after workers vote on whether to join the union. Unions argue that pre-election litigation is a stalling tactic that favors management.
The NLRB said it will extend a notice requirement for pre-election hearings from 8 calendar days to 14 business days; require employers to post notices of an election petition five days before service of a hearing notice, compared to two days under current procedure; and instruct regional directors to in many circumstances schedule an election for the 20th business day after a direction of election is issued. The rule, in addition, lengthens the time frame by three days in which employers must provide voter lists after a direction of election is issued.
“The controversial 2014 rule drastically altered union election policies, crippling workers’ rights in order to benefit union bosses,” House Education and Labor ranking member Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), said in a written statement. “Workers around the country deserve the opportunity to be fully informed before a union election is held, and today’s rule will ensure that ambush elections are a thing of the past.“
Lauren McFerran, the sole Democratic NLRB member, criticized the change, saying it will extend the minimum time frame of contested elections from 23 days to 78 days.
“The primary effect of these changes will be to dramatically increase the timetable for conducting representation elections by imposing unnecessary delay at each stage of the representation case process,” McFerran wrote in her dissent.