Q. I work in the HR department of a unionized company, and our CEO wants me to draw up an employee e-mail use policy. Can I restrict personal e-mail use without violating the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)?
A. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently ruled on this issue, which had lingered several years without an answer. In The Guard Publishing Company case—which applies to unionized and nonunionized employers alike—the NLRB ruled that employers may restrict employees’ use of company e-mail systems without violating the NLRA, so long as employers do not discriminate between union-related e-mail and other similar nonbusiness e-mail.
For example, workers may be prohibited from using the employer’s e-mail system to send out nonjob-related solicitations for outside organizations even if that negatively affects employees’ rights to communicate about union activity.
A key reminder here is to have a carefully drafted and consistently enforced policy on the use of e-mail and other electronic communications.
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