Can your employees use your company email systems to communicate with other employees for the purposes of organizing a union in your shop?

That important question was decided by the National Labor Relations Board in late June.

Their answer?

No.

This latest decision, involving T-Mobile USA, follows a December 2019 decision called Caesar’s Entertainment, in which NLRB decided employers do not violate the National Labor Relations Act by restricting the nonbusiness use of its IT resources unless employees can prove such systems were the only means for employees to contact each other.

Expanding on the December decision in the T-Mobile case, NLRB ruled that employer email systems are the property of the employer. As such, employers have the legal right to restrict the use of those email systems, provided other means of communicating are available to employees.

Organizing Activities

The latest decision even covers organizing activities protected under Section 7 of the NLRA.

Going forward, the difficult burden to prove there are no other means of communication in such matters will clearly fall on unions and their employee supporters.

This new standard, restricting employee use of internal company IT systems (including email), applies retroactively to any pending cases disputing rules limiting the use of IT resources for purposes unrelated to work tasks.

What should employers do in the meantime?

Many legal experts are suggesting that employers review their employee handbooks to ensure that any limits on employee use of internal email systems are clearly defined and justified.


About the author: Miguel Escalera is a partner at the labor and employment law firm Kainen, Escalera & McHale in Hartford.