The First Amendment doesn’t stop companies from cracking down on the employees’ speech. Which means that your boss can ban you from using work e-mail to share with you funny cat gifs, or organize a bake sale, or mourn the passage of your preferred celebrity. However now your boss can’t ban you from using work e-mail to arrange a union.
In a party-line 3-2 decision , the National Labor Relations Board ruled Thursday that employees who use company e-mail to accomplish their jobs may also use it to arrange to boost them. Which includes attempting to form a union along with other types of collective action at the job. Beneath the new ruling, companies can still impose some restrictions on the type of e-mails they allow on the servers (such as for example no gigantic attachments), plus they can still track their employees’ e-mail activities, though they can’t select union activism for scrutiny. But beyond rare exceptions, companies can’t prohibit e-mailing your co-workers to attempt to transform your workplace.
That new decision overturns a precedent from just seven years back, when Republicans who then had many on the labor board wrote that it will be kosher to permit e-mail solicitations for the Salvation Army however, not for a labor union. “The results of this error are too serious allowing it to stand,” the three Democrats who now hold many on the NLRB wrote. “Neither the truth that e-mail exists in a virtual (instead of physical) space, nor the truth that it allows conversations to multiply and spread quicker than face-to-face communication, reduces its centrality to employees’ discussions, including their [National Labor Relations Act] Section 7-protected discussions about conditions and terms of employment,” they argued. “If anything, e-mail’s effectiveness as a mechanism for quickly sharing information and views increases its importance to employee communication.”
In siding with employees yesterday, the NLRB rebuffed arguments that allowing pro-union e-mails would raise the threat of computer viruses; that employees don’t have to organize over work e-mail since they have Facebook and Twitter ; and that forcing companies to let their Internet servers be properly used to spread pro-union messages they disagree with would violate employers’ First Amendment rights. “E-mail users typically recognize that an e-mail message conveys the view of the sender,” almost all wrote, “not those of the e-mail account provider.”
The NLRB’s new method of organizing over work e-mail accounts echoes a number of decisions recently that protect workers’ to use Facebook and Twitter to share with you how to enhance their jobs. For some other speech, companies have free rein to punish their workers for what they state online, even though they take action on the day off. Chatter about banding together and organizing is among the only things companies are legally prevented from silencing-even if it’s something they might possible to choke off.