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NLRB Issues Decision in Purple Communications Case

Monday, December 22, 2014

(American Meat Institute)

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a 3-2 decision in the Purple Communications, Inc. case striking down the ban on employee use of employer email systems for non-work related communications. The NLRB decision overturns the Board's 2007 Register Guard ruling, which held that employees had no statutory right to use employer email systems for activities covered by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which includes both the right to organize and the right to engage in protected concerted activities, such as group discussions about employee terms and conditions of employment. Purple Communications, a company that provides sign-language interpretation services, previously prohibited workers from using company communications equipment, including company email, to send personal emails or engage in activities on behalf of organizations that have no affiliation with the company, such as unions. However, the Board noted that this ruling is limited, asserting that employers could, in rare instances, demonstrate "special circumstances" that make a total ban on non-work use of email necessary to maintain production and discipline.

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