- The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is inviting briefs on whether it should "adhere to, modify or overrule" its current position — adopted during the Obama administration — that workers have a right to use their employer's email system on nonworking time for communication protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The case under consideration is Caesars Entertainment Corporation d/b/a Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, 28-CA-060841.
- In 2014, the board reversed a previous standard, holding in Purple Communications Inc. that an employer violated the NLRA by prohibiting workers' use of its email system during nonworking time for union activities.
- While email was the only form of communication addressed in previous cases, the board has now also asked stakeholders to weigh in on "employer-owned computer resources" other than email. Briefs must be submitted on or before Sept. 5.
Following Purple Communications, employers across the nation were prompted to reconsider their email policies, even those without unionized workforces.
Additional review of the case is still pending in federal court but since the NLRB regained a Republican majority, watchers have been eying cases in which the board could reverse the controversial ruling — even though email is no longer the all-pervasive communications platform it was even a few years ago, Bloomberg Law reported back in March.
With the rise of chat platforms like Slack and the increasingly blurry line between employer and employee devices and platforms, it makes sense that the NLRB would be looking at newer technologies. And while it may be some time before employers have firm guidance, David J. Pryzbylski, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP wrote for the firm that "[t]he implications of this case would be very far-reaching, as the decision will apply to the vast majority of private-sector employers in the U.S."