Big changes may be on the horizon in regards to personal use policies in the work place. A recent blog post by HR Morning looked into the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) re-evaluation of policies that prohibit the personal use of company email, as well as restrictions on posting work related topics on social media. The re-examination of this policy was set in motion this year by the Obama Administration who sees this restriction as a violation of certain employee rights.
The NLRB is using Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)to headway their case. Section 7 gives workers the right to “self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection…” The combined concern of the Obama Administration and the NLRB is that the restriction provided by personal use policies could potentially hinder an employee’s ability to join a union, essentially stunting their potential to improve their overall work environment.
Why the changes now? In 2007, near the end of the Bush-era, the NLRB ruled in favor of The Register-Guard, an Oregon newspaper, with a strict company email policy prohibiting employees from using company email for non-work-related purposes. However, a recent case, Purple Communications, Inc. is charged for having a personal use policy that unlawfully restricts employees’ rights to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment. This new case has brought about a request to overturn the Register Guard decision. The NLRB agreed to revisit the Register Guard case, and the issue has been brought back to life. The beginning stage of this new development includes a questionnaire posted by the NLRB that asks for organizations, employers, workers and other concerned parties to answer. These questions include the need for reconsideration of the Register Guard case, the need for limitations of employee access to electronic communication systems in the workplace, and the inclusion of employee personal devices and accounts in rulings and restrictions. This is just the beginning in what may turn out to be major changes within company personal use policies.