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Recent Ruling by National Labor Relations Board Impacts Personal Use of Business Email

Changes require employers to allow personal use of email for employment-related discussions

In today’s age of information security and monitoring, more and more companies are limiting their employees’ personal use of work e-mail accounts. The restrictions of personal use of corporate e-mail vary greatly from company to company, however it is standard practice for an organization to include limitations in their employee handbook.

A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) requires employers to allow employees to use work e-mail accounts to discuss issues related to their union or employment in general, provided that the discussion take place during off-work hours. Prior to this ruling, employers had full control over an employee’s use of the company’s email system, especially since a company’s e-mail system is considered business property.

How far does the ruling reach?

The NLRB’s ruling provides employees with the right to discuss key employment-related issues, including union organization matters and the general terms and conditions of their employment.

Providing that the communication take place during non-working hours, allowable topics of discussion include:


  • Union administration: Discussion of all issues relating to the operation and administration of a union must be allowed under the ruling. This includes the costs of union dues, meeting notices, voting issues and activities. Banning or limiting the discussion of these topics is in violation of the ruling. 

  • Benefits concerns: Group discussions amongst employees regarding matters relating to the employer’s benefits offering must be allowed under the ruling. This includes communications regarding vacation policies, health insurance plans and more.

While there are some very specific exclusions, the decision affects nearly every U.S. employer maintaining a corporate e-mail system.

Does the ruling extend beyond e-mail?

The ruling by the NLRB relates specifically to the use of corporate e-mail systems. The decision does not cover the use of corporate phones, messaging programs or internal social media portals. At this point, it remains up to the discretion of each company to develop policies governing the use of these communication channels.

However, while that may be the case, the NLRB unofficially urged employers to carefully consider the allowed usage of these channels and encouraged the same treatment of all avenues of communication offered by an organization.

Have you been denied the use of corporate email to discuss union or employment matters?

Despite the ruling, some employers continue to limit the use of corporate email to discuss employment law issues. Whether the policy to ban these discussions is intended to protect morale or private information, such an action flies in the face of the NLRB’s ruling. At Hepworth, Gershbaum & Roth, PLLC our New York employment law attorneys are committed to helping clients uphold their labor rights. If you have been denied the use of company email to discuss union issues, we may be able to help. To schedule a free consultation with one of our New York employment lawyers, contact us online or call 212-545-1199.





Contact an employment law attorney in New York today for a free initial consultation and determine whether you have a case. For a free initial consultation, you can contact us online or by phone.

CALL US TODAY! 212-545-1199